Election 2022 in France: a flourishing Le Pen challenges favorite Macron in French presidential elections Listen to this article

Marine Le Pen had never been so close to power in France. The extreme right-wing leader reaches her side with the wind in the first round of the presidential election, this Sunday, April 10. According to all polls, the current president, centrist Emmanuel Macron, remains the favorite for re-election. But Le Pen hasn’t stopped closing the gap in recent weeks. This is the third time he has appeared and the first time he has really allowed himself to think that a second round win on the 24th is possible.

The polls are unanimous: Macron and Le Pen, as in the 2017 presidential elections, will again be the two most voted candidates in the first round. The latest poll from the iFOP Institute, published this Friday, indicates a vote intent of 26% for the president. His far-right rival would get 24%. In third place, with 17%, would be the populist leftist leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

According to the same poll, Macron would win the second round with 52%, compared to 48% for Le Pen. The gap is too close to the margin of error for Macronists to breathe easy, and enough for Lepenists to hope for. Five years ago, the president pulled out 66%; their rival, 34%.

If the election goes right, this election will, perhaps irreversibly, ruin the two structures that have been the backbone of France since the 1970s: the Socialist Party (PS) and the Republicans (LR). Socialist Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, may drop below 5%. Conservative LR’s Valerie Pecrese, down 10%.

Moderation, which according to many polls will reach 30%, complicates forecasts. In the 2021 regional elections, he damaged Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), and that’s why this Thursday, at his last rally in the Lepenist stronghold of Perpignan, he warned: “If the people vote, the people will win. Huh.” And he predicted: “We will live, friends, the moment of the founding of a new era.”

The good prospects for Le Pen answer to its merits. He has campaigned close to the ground and focused on economic issues. Thus, a process that began a decade ago has come to an end, to showcase the heir to the National Front, the historic Ultra Formation, RN, founded by his father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

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The rise of the RN candidate is also explained by Macron’s mistakes. He rarely campaigned, as if he did not intend to plunge into electoral mud, or as if the great affairs of the state – these weeks, the war in Ukraine – had not allowed him.

In the five years of his mandate, Macron has neither been able to push far-right ideas, nor has he been able to quell social unrest, which translates into the force of those who challenge remain so, It is not only Le Pen, but also a left-wing melanchon.

Like Le Pen, Melenchon appears a third time. And like him, he hasn’t stopped rising in the polls and dreams of creating surprises and going to another round.

Ultra commentator Eric Zemour wanted to dethrone Le Pen as the extreme right-wing leader, but he has benefited. After her outbursts and accusations against Zamour and the Muslims, she seems more liberal. The poll put them at around 10%.

Le Pen talks about hype, rising prices and purchasing power, and promises to reduce the cost of gasoline and keep the retirement age 62 or less. It has avoided the most incoherent propositions that are easy to recognize by overt tradition and rhetoric.

Veteran political scientist Jerome Jaffray, director of the Center for Studies and Knowledge of Public Opinion (CECOP), estimates, “He has sweetened his personal image and established himself as a man defending the French, and close to them.” is.” “Voters listen to good music.”

On tour across the country, Le Pen no longer portrays a rigid and polarizing leader. “He’s become a likable and familiar character to the French,” Jaffrey says. “The whole of France calls him a Marine!” That is, a sign of familiarity with his first name.

Over the years, based on the defeat, it has become more humane. Anecdote: Her love for cats – she received a breeder’s diploma – was teased at first, but it contributes to this image.

“It moves like a fish in water among the French today,” summarizes the political scientist. “In their journey”, she describes, “they greet her with kisses and demands for selfies. They say to him: ‘You are brave’. No one asks him how he will implement his measures without spending billions, nor do they tell him that if his policy is implemented, they will kick us out of Europe, or that he will destroy the European Union. .

With Macron, in some of his travels, the scenes are usually different. “At first there is a flurry of curiosity towards him,” says Jaffer, but immediately they begin to annoy him, adding the sentence: “He has had a bad campaign.”

Macron hasn’t finished resolving the dual-task dilemma between the president and the candidate. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February increased his popularity and his vote hopes by more than 30%. The election seemed set. But the Ukraine factor had an expiration date. It became a question of insecurity due to economic insecurity due to the return of war in Europe: from the threat of bombs to the threat of inflation.

Macron greets supporters in Nanterre on April 2.
Macron greets supporters in Nanterre on April 2.Ludovic Marin (AFP)

Overconfidence didn’t help. He delayed entering the campaign and never really entered it fully. He did not want to argue with the remaining 11 candidates. Nothing unusual: his predecessors in office didn’t even argue in the first round. But in his case it has strengthened the image of arrogance.

One of his main program proposals is to raise the retirement age to 65 years – a measure implemented by governments of the Left or Right in most neighboring countries but unpopular in France – which could be a sign of honesty. He says what he will do, even if he doesn’t add votes. But he also revealed the utmost confidence to believe that this could be one of his star measures.

Macron maintains a higher popularity than his predecessors François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the five-year term, and is confident in his management ability. But it creates an intermittent disapproval among a section of voters.

“If you’re re-elected, will you stop despising the French?” A citizen asked him in an interview with readers published by the regional press group Abra. Macron replied: “I have never despised French and French women. If I despised them, I would not fight for them and with them. ,

The first round will see some referendum on Macron, who is no longer the young and leading leader of 2017. In the second, and if the election hypothesis is correct, the referendum will be different: Le Pen yes or no. And so the fight will be between a candidate who will try to avoid intimidating and broadcast dissent, and a president who will fuel the fear that the far right will rule in France and win the hearts of Europe.

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