History repeats itself but it is not exactly the same. This Sunday, just like five years ago, the reformist liberal Emmanuel Macron and the extreme right Marine LePen they will compete for the presidency of France for another five years. And also like then, all the polls favor the current president but with less advantage and under the specter that a large abstention, a blank vote and a large number of undecided could give an improbable but not impossible overturn to an election that Due to the economic and political weight of France in Europe and in the world, it is closely followed beyond the Hexagon.
This noon, the stake it has reached 26.41%, slightly higher than that of the first round, but two points lower than those of the three previous presidential elections. At that time in the second round of 2017, 28.23% had voted, 30.66% in 2012 and 34.03% in 2007, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Macron has voted in the coastal town of Touquet; Le Pen has done it in his electoral stronghold of Hénin Beaumont, a small town next to the Belgian border
Macron, 44 years oldaspires to a second term, while this is the third attempt to LePen, 53, to reach the Elysee and the second time it will be in a second round. In 2017, the leader prevailed over his rival with 66% of the votes compared to 34%. This year, the average of the polls reduces this advantage to between 10 and 13 points (56% compared to 43%), a trend that reflects that National Rgrouping (RN, before National Front) he is an ever-growing force in France with serious aspirations to rule.
The Republican Front for the Republic
The leader trusts in the strength of the call republican front – this is how the cordon sanitaire is known to curb the extreme right – to return to the Elysee, like five years ago, when in his speech on election night he recognized the vote given “in defense of the Republic”. But that front is now much more porous because Le Pen no longer scares the French so much and Macron generates more rejection.
“Everything has changed, in 2017 people did not even imagine that Le Pen could win and now it is seen as possible. That will happen one day”, notes Pierre in Batignolles, a neighborhood of modern buildings and large green areas in the 17th arrondissement, in the north of Paris. For this reason, until the last moment, Macron’s camp has called for not relaxing and not taking anything for granted while Le Pen’s has made an effort to show a sense of confidence in victory. “We can win,” they repeat.
The candidate of La República En Marche (LREM) is no longer a page to discover, new and groundbreaking. Now he bears the weight of a management that has not been easy, marked by the social unrest that first caused his reforms -the protests of the ‘yellow vests,’ -and the covid pandemic, later. To which is added, how ungenerous the French are with their presidents – only the socialist Francois Mitterrand Y Jacques Chirac they have been re-elected since the 1980s – and a personalistic and distant way of governing that provokes a visceral rejection in some voters.
It is this antipathy that Le Pen has tried to exploit, appealing to a anti-Macron front against the republican front, presenting herself as the “candidate of the people” against the “candidate of the elites”. And with completely opposite views on the economy, on France and on France’s role in the world, there is one thing they agree on: this is an all-or-nothing election. Either the Republic or Le Pen, for Macron. Either France or Macron, for Le Pen.
A more complex and polarized France
But the France that emerged from the polls in the first round is much more complex, more radical and more polarized. It pulverized the traditional parties that have been alternating in the political life of the Fifth Republic -socialists and conservatives- to make a third force emerge, that of the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who with 22% of the votes was left alone 400,000 to go to the second round and whose voters -seven million- are going to have a key role this Sunday.
Le Pen and Macron have addressed Mélenchon’s electorate in the last 14 days. The leader has asked that no vote go to Le Pen but he has resisted asking for support for the president. Far left and far right dispute the vote of the victims of deindustrialization, of rural France, of the periphery of the cities. With Macron, the melencohonistas hardly share the rejection of Le Pen.
According to a poll, 40% of Mélenchon voters will vote for Macron, 40% will abstain and 20% will vote for Le Pen. “A vote that sucks is better than a vote that kills,” said a young melenchonista who will now vote for the president this week.
Macron has dedicated himself to capturing voters like her in the 15 days of campaigning between the two electoral rounds, to stepping on the street in his shirt sleeves, to mingle with the people and to accentuate his leftist profile, qualifying his most controversial reform for this: increase the retirement age from 62 to 65, measure rejected by 68% of the French.
The president who entered the campaign late in the first round, focused on managing the war in Ukraine, has also made an effort to put on the table the most controversial aspects of Le Pen’s program that she had managed to leave in the background : the prohibition of the Islamic veil, the greater control of immigration, its anti-Europeanism and its close relationship with the Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Nothing that was not known. Because the wolf is still the wolf even if he dresses in sheep’s clothing. And even if it doesn’t scare you so much.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.