The first week of campaigning between the two rounds of the French presidential election ends with a trend more favorable to President Emmanuel Macron than to rival Marine Le Pen. Three polls published in recent days point to Macron winning by 7 to 12 points in the second round, scheduled for April 24. The so-called “republican front” against the extreme right is showing signs of resistance.
Since the announcement of the results of the first round on Sunday (10), Macron and Le Pen have intensified their trips across the country in search of votes from voters of candidates defeated in the first stage. The dispute entered a new phase, with the details of the government programs of the two finalists, which brought to the front of the political platform the deep ideological differences between the president, who embodies the republican center, and the nationalist Le Pen. The attacks are more personal and the duel of values in evidence.
Absent from the streets before the first round, Macron has exposed himself in recent days to questions about his government balance, without shying away from more aggressive voters. This proximity to the French paid off. The centrist reinforces his position as leader of the democratic camp, ready to incorporate proposals from ecologists, from the left, including radical ones, and from the moderate right, in a second term. It is a strategy to expand its margin of votes, but also a way to reassert itself at the center of the French political spectrum between the extremes, adding orphan voters from traditional parties, which have just collapsed in this election.
Marine Le Pen continues to target rural areas and small towns, where she has consolidated her base in recent years, but avoids the peripheries, where her radical anti-immigration proposals are poorly received. She is trying to turn the second round, on April 24, into a referendum against Macron, but it is not certain that this tactic will translate into votes for the far right. Supporters of polemicist Éric Zemmour, fourth in the first round, will vote for Le Pen, but outside the far-right camp, Le Pen struggles to gain support.
After a group of 50 athletes at the beginning of the week, 500 French artists and writers, including filmmaker Guillaume Canet and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, declared this Friday (15) that they would vote for Macron “without hesitation”. In an open letter, they denounce Marine Le Pen’s “xenophobic” program.
Le Pen radicalizes anti-system discourse
At a rally on Thursday (13) in Avignon, in the south of France, the leader of the Réunion National party returned to using expressions that had disappeared from her speech in recent months. She cited the word “system” at least seven times, saying she was the only candidate capable of “changing things”. She repeated exhaustively the phrase “the people who vote are the people who win”, in addition to saying that, if elected, she will remove from power “the caste that governs the country”.
Nine days before the second round, Marine Le Pen accentuates the populist and anti-system tone, which she has been trying to disguise until now.
An Ipsos poll showed on Thursday that twice as many voters for the radical left candidate Jean-Luc-Mélenchon, third in the first round, will vote for Macron than for Le Pen. On Saturday (16), the result of the consultation made between the militants of the Insubmissive France party, who were submitted to three options in the second round: abstention, blank vote or for Macron. Mélenchon has already emphasized that “no vote should go to the extreme right”.
Former presidents François Hollande, a socialist, and Nicolas Sarkozy, a rightist, have announced that they will vote for Macron and ask the French to stop the extreme right in the vote on the 24th.
occupation of universities
The week was also marked by the occupation of universities by students dissatisfied with the result of the first round. Hundreds of students mobilized in several French cities, such as Paris, Nancy or Reims, to ask for more attention to ecological and social issues and to criticize candidates running in the second round.
A group that had invaded the Sorbonne, in Paris, left the university buildings on Thursday afternoon, but other students preferred to continue the protest and only left the place this afternoon. The rectory condemned “the illegal occupation”, which ended in the depredation of part of the facilities.
Macron and Le Pen reacted to the occupation. She said students had “missed the tram of democracy” and should not oppose “the will of the French people”. Macron said that “democracy has rules” and that in the second round of an election, everyone has the option of choosing the candidate closest to their personal convictions, “otherwise it’s anarchy.”
Debate will be decisive
Attention is focused on the debate between the two candidates, next Wednesday (20). The confrontation will be decisive, especially for Marine Le Pen, who does not intend to repeat the fiasco of 2017, when he made many mistakes against rookie Emmanuel Macron.