France celebrates this sunday april 24 the second round of presidential elections that will mark the future of the country. After the results of the first round, which certified the debacle of the traditional French forces, the liberal and pro-European candidate, Emmanuel Macronis dueling again, as it did in the 2017 elections, with the far-right candidate, Marine LePenwho, according to the polls, arrives at this second vote with more possibilities than ever to win.
Although the distance between the two has widened slightly in recent days, it is still not very wide, so their ability to mobilize the voters who did not vote for them in the first round and those who consider abstention can be decisive. These are some of the keys to the second round of the presidential elections in France.
Same protagonists, different scenario
Five years later, France revives a confrontation between the same candidates, but the context around them has changed significantly. Macron is running for re-election after a mandate that has sown high rates of discontent. Le Pen, on the other hand, aspires to obtain the best results in its history after a campaign marked by a moderation of his speech that could make it even more difficult to call for a useful vote against a far right that no longer scares the French so much.
In 2017, the candidate for the National Group ran for the second time in presidential elections and debuted in the second round with little chance of winning. Macron, on the contrary, arrived at the elections with a short political career and with the purpose of once again exciting an electorate disenchanted with the country’s political offer and willing to stop Le Pen, as he did once with the father of the.
“After five years of government, Macron is no longer a novel figure. Although he tries to reactivate that spirit, it is much more difficult for him to launch a speech with which to excite the French”, explains Irene Sánchez Vítores, professor of Political Science at the URJC, to RTVE.es. “He is no longer a stranger, he is the President of the Republic who, moreover, is perceived as an arrogant figure,” she adds.
Likewise, these five years of government have not convinced part of an electorate that in 2017 went to the polls to prevent the rise of Le Pen. “The arguments tire in politics, the fear of the far right too. If you repeat it over and over again, as in the story of Pedro and the wolf, it ceases to have an effect”, explains Andrés Santana Leitner, professor and coordinator of the Department of Political Science at the Autonomous University of Madrid, to RTVE.es. This time, he says, “he is Macron again, asking for the same thing again”, a dynamic that has tired, above all, those voters most dissatisfied with his policies.
Le Pen’s match, closer than ever to the Elysee
For the candidate of the National Association, formerly the National Front, this year’s it is his third run for the presidency and his second duel for the head of state against Emmanuel Macron. However, neither she nor her father, who disputed the Elysée with former president Jacques Chirac in 2002, had reached the final stretch of a presidential election with as many possibilities of winning or, at least, of making it very difficult for their victory. rival.
Neither the commotion over his alleged friendship with Vladimir Putin, nor the irruption of the polemicist Éric Zemmour prevented Le Pen from reaping the best result in its history in the first round of presidential elections on April 10. In fact, the appearance of the Reconquista candidate and his anti-Islam speech have helped the candidate to consolidate itself as a more moderate option. Leaving Zemmour to focus on issues such as security or immigration, has focused on more economic issues and, in addition, he has chosen to discard some of his most controversial proposals, such as France’s exit from the European Union.
In 2002 Chirac defeated Jean-Marie Le Pen with 82% of the vote; in 2017 the margin was reduced, but Macron won against Marine Le Pen with 66.1%. In these elections, despite the fact that the current president starts again as the favorite, the distance between the two, according to the polls, is significantly shortened, giving the president a 56% win to Le Pen’s 44%. “The fear of Le Pen has fallen and the weariness towards Macron has risen, making the results closer”, exposes Santana.
In France, until now, the cordon sanitaire exercised by the rest of the political forces against the extreme right has worked very well. In fact, at the end of the first round, the majority of parties asked for the vote for Macron or against Le Pen. However, “as much as they try to corner Le Pen, voters are normalizing her and she has become a constant presence,” argues Sánchez Vítores. “There are young voters who no longer find it strange that Le Pen goes to a second round. In the future, some will be used to it and perhaps it will be rare for them to see a left-wing force in the second round”, he adds.
“Le Pen has shown an image less radical, less harsh“, argues Adela Alija, director of the International Relations department at Nebrija University. “It is as if French society I would have assumed this candidate and incorporated his party into his political system with great acceptance”.
The conquest of Mélenchon’s vote
The radical left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, got 21.95% of the votes last April 10, remaining at the gates of the second round a little more than one point behind the candidate of the National Association. Thus, appeal to the electorate of Unruly Francethe most numerous if we compare it with the rest of the candidates, can be key for Macron and Le Pen.
A remarkable issue is change in the position in which it stands as the main force of the left, as Alija exposes. “In 2017 he had a clear position to stop Le Pen, now Mélenchon does not directly encourage Macron to vote, so, especially among young people, who maintain that they are neither with Macron nor with Le Pen, abstention can play a role. very relevant role”, he explains.
Mélenchon repeatedly insisted on not giving him “not a single vote for Mrs Le Pen”, though some of his voters don’t seem likely to take his advice. According to the last consultation carried out by Ipsos, 17% of its electorate will vote for the National Grouping candidate next Sunday and 39% will vote for Macron. On the other hand, the consultation carried out by the formation itself, which does not contemplate the vote for Le Pen, shows that 33.4% of its supporters will opt for Macron, while 67% will opt for abstention.
“There are many Mélenchon voters who are really fed up with Macron,” explains Santana. “It will be called into question the boredom towards Macron in the face of the fear of Le Pen. Now, a voter with preferences for redistributive economic policy and not so much for neoclassical or neoliberal economics, with Le Pen at least may have some doubts, with Macron he knows that he will not like his policies, ”he adds.
The campaign issues and the proposals of the candidates
In the midst of a financial crisis aggravated by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, economic issues and international affairs have occupied much of the political discourse in these elections. Both Macron and Le Pen have spoken in their campaign of purchasing power, the main concern of the French, although the candidate for the National Group has made this issue her flag. Likewise, the war in Ukraine has put international political issues on the table, such as the France’s NATO membership.
While Macron defends that the war has given “strategic clarification” to an Atlantic Alliance that he himself considered a few years ago “brain dead”, Le Pen bets on remove the country from integrated military command and has proposed a rapprochement “between Russia and NATO” once the war is over. Regarding the European Union, the candidate is committed to a “reform from within” and the creation of “an alliance of sovereign nations” that returns powers to the member states.
They both agree on nuclear power boost and the reduction of the impact of the increase in the price of electricity and fuels. Macron defends the government’s investment of “20,000 million euros” to mitigate the rise in prices and is committed to “blocking” the price of electricity and gas while Le Pen proposes lowering VAT on energy products from 20% to 5 .5% and “remove France from the European electricity system”.
In recent days, Emmanuel Macron has also opted for the environmental issue, perhaps in an attempt to attract one more young vote, and has promised to transform France into a “great ecological nation”. The president has described the electoral project of his opponent as “climato-sceptic”, something that Le Pen has denied and to which he has defended himself by calling him a “climato-hypocrite”.
Regarding immigration, both coincide in taking measures against radical Islamism. In addition, Le Pen advocates including in the Constitution the “national priority” and chooses to prohibit the regularization of irregular foreigners. Macron, for his part, drags behind his back a criticized law against Islamic separatism and in his program he proposes, for example, to stop the renewal of visas for those who “disrupt public order” and deport them.
Another of the controversial issues that both include in their program is French retirement age. While Le Pen advocates advancing it to 60 for those who began to contribute before the age of 20, Macron makes a controversial proposal and proposes delay until 65although in recent weeks he has mentioned the possibility of reducing it to 64.
Macron aspires to be the first re-elected president in two decades
In 2017 Emmanuel Macron arrived at the Elysée Palace, becoming the youngest leader of France since Napoleon at the age of 39. the current president came to politics after having been minister of François Hollande, although he knew how to leave his predecessor’s government in time and presented himself as a candidate for the presidency at the head of his then newly launched party. He promised to revive France by breaking away from the traditional forces of left and right.
However, Macron is no longer the disruptive young candidate he was five years ago and is now heading for re-election after a mandate that not all French people value positively. His passage through the Elysee has been marked by the protests of the yellow vests, the management of the country in the midst of a global pandemic and a deep economic crisis aggravated after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Although he attracted a large left-wing constituency at the time, his policies, which have veered further to the right, have provoked discontent among a large section of the French.
Nevertheless, the polls place him as the favorite to win the victory in this second round, although this time without the wide distance that separated him from a rival who has made an effort to moderate his speech since the last elections. If what the polls predict is true, even if the result is tight, the current president will win an election against Le Pen and will star in the first presidential re-election in France since Jacques Chirac, who revalidated his mandate in 2002.