Can Macron emulate Chirac?
The French election is less than a month away and Emmanuel Macron is vying to gain a second term in office; always a tough assignment in France given the French voters fondness for punishing the incumbent president. Only one president has been re-elected in the last 20 years which was Jacques Chirac in 2002
In this year’s election there are 5 main competitors contending for 2 spots in the second round which will decide the next president of the republic.
The 5 candidates represent opinions from the radical left to the radical right; here I am going to analyse them one by one and see how they are performing in the polls.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Represents “La France Insoumise”, a left-wing populist political party, who has expressed views such as placing a 100% tax on people earning over 360000 euros a year, easing of immigration laws and opposing NATO who he perceives as a threat to French sovereignty. Likewise, he has been an outspoken critic of the EU ¨which he claims has been corrupted and is now a tool for neoliberal ideology¨. He has been accused of complacency towards Russia and yet has been pulling up his support thanks to left wing voters who are rallying behind the best placed left-wing candidate. He is now polling on a par with Valerie Percresse and Eric Zemmour
Valerie Percresse, who represents the centre right Republicans, won the party primaries and seemed to be the main competitor of Emmanuel Macron, however she has been caught between Macron and the French far right, not being able to distinguish herself and not being very convincing in her speeches. On top of that, her party has been faced with corruption scandals and previous president Nicolas Sarkozy who represented the party has been given a jail sentence over his campaign funding
Eric Zemmour: The controversial far right aspirant dubbed the “French Donald Trump”, who has been convicted for inciting racial hatred, had a meteoric rise in the polls thanks to his
populist views on reducing immigration and criticism of Islam, who he sees as incompatible with the values of the French nation. On the Ukrainian refugee crisis, he has had to widen his views and say that Ukrainian refugees are welcome if they have family ties to France, but Arabs are not welcome. After his spectacular rise, for the last months he has been declining and now is polling around the 12% mark.
Marie le Pen: Criticised recently for her close connections to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, yet has been convincing and has managed to persuade many voters from the far and centre right and seems the most likely candidate to face Macron in the second round. One of her most successful campaigns has been on energy prices, which have been soaring as they have been in all Europe. She has criticised Macron for not cutting fuel prices and has been campaigning for cuts in the VAT on fuel, gas and electricity from 20 to 5.5 per cent and a reduction in the French TV license fee.
Emmanuel Macron: Has been the frontrunner throughout the whole election campaign and has seen his polls boosted thanks to the invasion of Ukraine. Before the invasion started, he was the national leader who had had the most conversations with Putin to try to deescalate the conflict. In the end they proved unsuccessful, nonetheless these efforts have been rewarded by the French public. Right now, his biggest challenges are soaring inflation and nationalist independence protests in Corsica, after a savage prison attack on a key jailed nationalist, who was being held in mainland France, left him in a coma. For the first time the French government may offer Corsica autonomy, which the right wing candidates have taken no time to criticise, as they say it is the path towards full independence.
The expected outcome of this election seems to be a decisive victory for Emmanuel Marcon, yet he will have a reduced advantage over Le Pen who looks to be the clear frontrunner for the main challenger. The tune in French politics has changed drastically in the last month, with the focus turned towards the Ukraine crisis and internal policy seemingly being slightly forgotten. Macron has been doing a mild campaign, more focused on resolving the Ukraine crisis and appearing as is if this election were a distraction for him.
However, there are still more than 20 days until the election and with more than a month until the final round, anything can happen. Any small controversy or scandal could prove fatal to Macron and hand a win to the French Far right, leading to an abrupt change in French foreign policy and in consequence the fate of the EU.