The remake of 2017’s Macron vs. Le Pen election matchup will be tighter this time around—and the outcome will shape not only France’s future but that of the European continent at large.
After the first round, President Emmanuel Macron leads polls with 27.8%, ahead of far-right Marine Le Pen with 23.1% and of far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 22%. But roadblocks lay ahead.
Here’s the view from our Paris office:
- The key issue for voters was “purchasing power” in light of the rise of inflation. Social protection ranked second, followed by safety.
- Personal affinity to political leaders is replacing party affiliation as a key factor determining voting intentions. The traditional French political parties have been weak for a long time, but now they are on the verge of disappearing. And far-right turnout has overtaken the left, echoing a global shift.
- The deep division of the electorate makes it difficult to anticipate the outcome of the second round. Cities voted mostly for Macron and Mélenchon. In contrast, Le Pen leads the ballot in rural areas and mid-sized cities. Working classes and youth overwhelmingly voted Le Pen and Mélenchon, while Macron had his best results among wealthier and older voters.
- A great share of the electorate will feel unrepresented by the future president and government, potentially leading to social turmoil. The first round highlighted the fragmented nature of the electorate caused by increased tactical voting. The legitimacy of the forthcoming executive is at risk because no leading candidate can claim votes on a clearly identified political project.
The second round will be held April 24, with the campaign’s decisive moment the traditional head-to-head debate between the two candidates on April 20. Macron will aim to demonstrate only he can ensure France’s resilience while Le Pen will try to prove herself the people’s candidate.