Macron versus Le Pen: the second round of the French presidential election explained

The French presidential election will be a rematch of the 2017 contest, when far-right Marine Le Pen took on political newcomer Emmanuel Macron.

Macron won this race by nearly two votes to one.

But while the candidates remain the same, the 2022 race looks very different.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How is the election going?

To elect their new president, French voters go to the polls twice.

The first vote on Sunday saw 12 candidates running against each other. They qualified for the race by gaining the endorsement of 500 mayors and/or local councilors across the country.

Macron and Le Pen received the most votes, but as neither won more than 50%, they will head to a run-off on Sunday April 24.

This is not the only national vote France faces this year – legislative elections are also due to take place in June.

What dates should I know?

Macron and Le Pen will hold a debate on the evening of April 20 which will be broadcast by French broadcasters France 2 and TF1.

The second round will then take place on Sunday 24 April.

Candidates are not allowed to campaign on the day before the poll, or on polling day itself, and the media will be subject to strict reporting restrictions from the day before the poll until the close of business voting at 8 p.m. Sunday in France.

What do the polls show?

A much tighter contest than the 2017 election.

Macron and Le Pen both increased their total vote share in this year’s first round compared to 2017, but polls ahead of the April 10 first round showed Le Pen enjoyed a late surge of support in March. .

An Ifop-Fiducial poll released on April 10 suggests Macron would win a second-round contest against Le Pen by just 51% to 49%. Macron’s advantage grew in the days after the first-round results were released, but two weeks is a long time in politics – and a lot could change by election day.

Political analysts often say that the French vote with their heart in the first round, then vote with their head in the second round, which means that they first choose their ideal candidate, then opt for the lesser of two evils in the second round. .

Macron saw that play out in 2017. He and Le Pen won 24% and 21.3% of the vote in the first round, respectively, and then 66.1% and 33.9% in the second round.

To be re-elected, Macron will likely have to convince supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to support him. Mélenchon comes third with 22% of the vote. On Sunday, Melenchon told his supporters “we must not give Madame Le Pen a single voice”, but did not explicitly support Macron.

Most of the losing candidates urged their supporters to support Macron to prevent the far right from winning the presidency.

Eric Zemmour, a former right-wing television pundit known for his incendiary rhetoric, urged his followers to back Le Pen.

What are the French waiting for?

The unexpected.

At the start of 2022, the election was shaping up to be an important referendum on the growing popularity of the French far right. It’s been 20 years since a French president was re-elected, so the vote was shaping up to be one of the country’s most closely watched political races in decades.

Then Russia invaded Ukraine.

With Europe’s eyes firmly fixed on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody war, priorities have quickly shifted: stockpiles of ammunition, high-stakes diplomacy and even the threat of a nuclear strike have all entered the picture. the national debate.

Macron assumed the role of European statesman, taking him away from the campaign trail, while Le Pen was forced to backtrack on her previous support for Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 24, 2017.

What else has changed in the past five years?

The French political landscape, to begin with.

Macron’s election effectively blew up the traditional center of French politics. In years past, many of his voters would have flocked to the traditional center-left and center-right parties, Socialists and Republicans.

But Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist candidate, and Valérie Pécresse, the Republican candidate, failed to convince voters to abandon the centrist candidate already in office. Both polled under 5% in the first round.

What else should I know about Macron and Le Pen?

Emmanuel Macron is a former investment banker and alumnus of some of the most prestigious schools in France. He was new to politics before becoming president, and this is only the second political election he has contested.

But he is no longer an upstart and must run on a mixed record.

His ambitious plan to strengthen the autonomy and geopolitical weight of the European Union has earned him respect abroad and at home, even if his attempts to convince Donald Trump or to prevent the agreement on sub- AUKUS sailors, and his unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to avert war in Ukraine could be considered. failures.

Macron’s domestic policies are more confrontational and less popular. His handling of the yellow vests movement, one of France’s most protracted protests in decades, has been widely criticized, and his record on the Covid-19 pandemic is inconclusive.

Macron’s signature policy during the crisis – requiring people to show proof of vaccination to lead normal lives – helped boost vaccination rates but sparked a vocal minority against his presidency.

Prior to the first round of this election, Macron refused to debate his opponents, and he barely campaigned himself. While his pole position in the race was never really in jeopardy, experts say his strategy has been to avoid political slander for as long as possible to keep the focus on his image as the most presidential candidate.

Marine Le Pen is the most recognizable figure of the French far right. She is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, the predecessor of Le Pen’s current political party.

Young Le Pen tried to rename the party, as it had long been seen as racist and anti-Semitic.

This is his third chance at the presidency. This year and in 2017, she edged out her father on the first ballot.

In 2017, Le Pen campaigned as France’s answer to Trump: a right-wing firebrand who vowed to protect France’s forgotten working class from immigrants, globalization and the technology that made their jobs obsolete.

Since then, she has dropped some of her more controversial political proposals, such as leaving the European Union.

But overall, her economic nationalist stance, her views on immigration, her skepticism of Europe and her stance on Islam in France – she wants to make it illegal for women to wear headscarves in public – have not changed. “Stopping uncontrolled immigration” and “eradicating Islamist ideologies” are the two priorities of his manifesto.

Le Pen has tried to soften his tone, however, particularly around Islam and the EU in the wake of Brexit.

Instead, she has campaigned hard on wallet issues, promising measures she says will put 150 to 200 euros ($162 to $216) in every household’s coffers, including a pledge to scrap the sales tax on 100 household items.

The strategy seems to have worked.

Le Pen’s performance in the first round of the 2022 presidential election was her best result in the three times she ran.

What are the main issues for French voters?

The cost of living is one of the major concerns of the French electorate this year. In the face of the economic fallout from the pandemic, high energy prices and war in Ukraine, voters are feeling the pinch, despite generous government support.

While financial pressures may be insufficient to whitewash the extremism of some candidates in the minds of voters, they may push some to seek unorthodox answers to their problems.

The fighting in Ukraine is a far cry from the bistros and cafes of France, but the conflict is certainly on the minds of voters. Just under 90% of French people were worried about the war in the last week of March, according to Ifop. Given his opponents’ uneven record against Putin, this has likely worked in Macron’s favor so far.

Absent from the first-round debate was the environmental crisis. Although the importance of climate protections is gaining ground globally, it is of less concern in France, which met 75% of its electricity needs in 2020 from nuclear power, according to the French Ministry of Health. ‘environment. Most first-round candidates backed the kind of nuclear development that Macron has already announced, so there is little disagreement on this issue.

However, Macron and Le Pen have argued over wind and solar power. Le Pen argues that both are expensive and inefficient – ​​she also says wind turbines have marked the landscape of the traditional French countryside – so she wants to remove subsidies for both. Macron wants to invest more in both technologies.

The Macron and Le Pen campaigns promise two very different visions of France’s future.

Macron promises to keep moving forward with a globalized, free market-oriented France at the helm of a powerful EU. Le Pen wants to completely upend the status quo with protectionist economic policies and an overhaul of Paris’s relationship with its allies and adversaries.

But at the end of the day, the election may simply come down to which candidate France hates the least: the president who is widely seen as elitist and out of touch, or the challenger best known for his incendiary rhetoric on Islam and his support to the authorities.

Comments are closed.