French Presidential Elections: The Choice Of The Least Bad Option
On the 24th of April, the French will once again go to the poll for a second-round of the presidential election. Incumbent Emmanuel Macron will run against Marine Le Pen, already his opponent, at the same stage of the French presidential election five years ago. In 2017, Macron brought a breath of fresh air to the French political scene, usually divided by the traditional left and right-wing (The Socialist Party and the Republicans).
Today’s second round of the Presidential election, is a Déjà vu of the 2017 election, but things have changed since. At that time, the fight was a match between progress and universalism against far-right ideology. Nowadays, Marine Le Pen succeeded to change her vile image by owning a successful campaign where she suppressed some radical points of her program such as the exit of the EU and NATO, became a cat lover by showing her cats all over her social media, and addressed as the main point of her program, which’s the first concern of the French population: the purchasing power. Owning this campaign strategy, she succeeded to soften her image and get rid of the far-right label, which now makes her electable. On the other hand, Emmanuel Macron has experienced an accumulation of crises within his first term; the yellow jackets, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Ukrainian crisis. However, he carries the image of arrogance and detachment from the reality of the French population, especially from the middle and working class (Nouvel Obs, 2022). His policy of suppressing a tax concerning the richest (ISF) and the rise of the oil tax led to the massive movement of the Yellow Jacket in 2018.
One thing is sure, considering those points, the gap between the results of the two candidates is going to be tighter, and the "republican front," which happened in 2017, is not going to be as strong. At the time the article was written, the polls still gave Emmanuel Macron as the most likely to win (56%) against Le Pen (43,5%), especially following the debate last Wednesday, which widened the ratio of power between the two candidates (IPSOS, 2022a). Even though Emmanuel Macron is on track to his reelection, despite the absence of a proper campaign, we are never away from a surprise as the rate of abstention promises to be high.
LESSONS FROM THE FIRST ROUND
However, the biggest surprise of this election was the third place of the far left-wing candidate Jean Luc Mélenchon (22,,2), which had only a gap of 0,8 with Marine Le Pen (23%) (IPSOS, 2022b). A red wave occurred, and probably, the candidate could have easily been in the second round if the left was not as divided during this election with 5 different candidates. He was especially the favorite of the youth, considering his program, which focused on social and environmental questions and his ability to communicate on social media. Nonetheless, this first round also confirmed the death of the traditional left and right parties, which did not reach 5% (PS: 1,7%; Les Republicans: 4,8%) and therefore had to pay by themselves their campaign costs (IPSOS, 2022b). In addition, the other winner of this campaign, as expected, was the rate of abstention, which was 26,3, the second worth one in the history of the French Fifth Republic (Ibid). And this second round promises to experience the same or even a higher rate of abstention. Indeed, this second round will be marked by a "utile" vote either against Macron or Le Pen rather than being a vote of adhesion to their program: it’s the choice of the least worth (France 24, 2022a).
THE UPCOMING FRENCH LEGISLATIVE ELECTION (12th and 19th of June)
Beyond today’s second presidential round, we should be looking for the coming legislative elections in a month which will determine if Macron or Le Pen will have the majority in the Parliament to govern. If not, cohabitation might occur and Jean Luc Mélenchon has already announced his intentions and is ready to get his revenge by winning this election through a coalition of the left and thus becoming the Prime Minister of Emmanuel Macron (France 24, 2022b).
Nouvel Obs (2022), Les opposants d’Emmanuel Macron fustigent son « arrogance » face à Marine Le Pen lors du débat d’entre-deux tours, https://www.nouvelobs.com/election-presidentielle-2022/20220421.OBS57415/les-opposants-d-emmanuel-macron-fustigent-son-arrogance-face-a-marine-le-pen-lors-du-debat-d-entre-deux-tours.html
IPSOS (2022a), Présidentielle 2022 | Emmanuel Macron favori à 2 jours du scrutiny, https://www.ipsos.com/fr-fr/presidentielle-2022/presidentielle-2022-intention-vote-22-avril
IPSOS (2022b), LES RÉSULTATS DU SCRUTIN, https://www.ipsos.com/fr-fr/presidentielle-2022/les-resultats-du-premier-tour
France 24 (2022a), Présidentielle : quand le vote utile devient l’enjeu majeur pour accéder au second tour, https://www.france24.com/fr/france/20220405-quand-le-vote-utile-devient-l-enjeu-majeur-pour-acc%C3%A9der-au-second-tour
France 24 (2022b) Législatives : Mélenchon veut être élu "Premier ministre", le PS tend la main à LFI, https://www.france24.com/fr/france/20220420-l%C3%A9gislatives-m%C3%A9lenchon-veut-%C3%AAtre-%C3%A9lu-premier-ministre-le-ps-tend-la-main-%C3%A0-lfi