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French Polls Show Show Marine Le Pen Surging Towards Incumbent Macron


For the people of France, decision day is fast arriving. Voting in the first round of the French presidential election will begin this weekend, and it’s now clear that Emmanuel Macron’s lead over his rivals, namely Marine Le Pen, is seriously slipping.

Based on today’s poll numbers, both front runners Macron and Le Pen are slated to make it to the second-round run-off stage – a repeat of the country’s 2017 presidential run.

What has caused Macron’s popularity to tank in the home stretch? Just a few months ago he was a heavy favourite for re-election, but in recent weeks he has been ensnared in the hugely damaging McKinsey scandal, as well as his failure to chart any meaningful course on France’s response to the situation in Ukraine. Early on Macron was trying to play the peacemaker and shuttle diplomat with Moscow, and has ended up panicking as NATO and French special forces officers have been exposed fighting alongside Nazi battalions in battle zones like Mariupol.

Ms Le Pen’s success has come at the expense of the controversial right-wing candidate Eric Zemmour, whose early hype has died down, making him a mere footnote by now.

Rounding out the field is anti-establishment left-wing candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is now in third place with around 15% of the vote.

Even the pro-globalist Washington Post is openly admitting that right-wing Marine Le Pen is now trending stronger than incumbent Macron: 

More than a month ago, French President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection seemed a certainty. He comfortably led in the polls ahead of rivals to the left and right. The French public watched in shock as Russian forces poured into Ukraine. Macron’s main challenger, far-right perennial Marine Le Pen, was hobbled by her historic rapport with the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin and stated admiration for his approach to governance. A second-round runoff against either Le Pen or far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another figure with a dim view of NATO and a perceived friendliness toward Putin, was bound to be a formality.

Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a radical centrist eager to shake up French politics and play a more assertive role on the European stage, embraced the part of continental statesman. “People always rally around a wartime leader,” Nicholas Dungan, a senior fellow of the Atlantic Council, told my colleague Rick Noack. “The leadership by Macron is completely consistent with the image the French have of what their country should be doing: It’s a global power, it needs to be listened to, it should be aiming for peace.”

As Sunday’s first-round vote nears, though, Macron has reason to sweat. He will likely finish at the top of the pack, but polls now show a statistical toss-up between him and Le Pen should they face each other in the second round on April 24. “It’s one minute to midnight,” former prime minister Manuel Valls wrote in a column in French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche. “Marine Le Pen could be elected president of the republic.”

Le Pen has closed the gap on Macron no matter the bad odor of her and her party’s Russophilia — her supporters had even circulated a campaign leaflet showing her shaking Putin’s hand — and the frequent broadsides from Macron’s camp. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday that, in a France led by Le Pen, “there would be less sovereignty because we would be allies of Russia, of Vladimir Putin.”

The reality is Le Pen has surged on the back of voter concerns that have little to do with the geopolitics of ending the war in Ukraine. “Polls show that a majority of the French worry that the cost of living has increased under Macron’s presidency, even as the economy overall has weathered the coronavirus pandemic and other crises,” my colleagues explained. “The war in Ukraine has prompted growing concerns over rising inflation, surging energy prices and insufficient pensions.”

Le Pen, who lost in a landslide to Macron in 2017, has tried to detoxify her and her party’s image as one steeped in neo-fascist resentments, racism and anti-Semitism. She was aided by the maverick campaign of ultranationalist gadfly Eric Zemmour, whose snarling anti-immigrant, anti-establishment rhetoric has made Le Pen — a far-right mainstay for years — look comparatively moderate. And her campaign has waved the banner of economic populism as much as it also tries to harness far-right cultural anxieties. Le Pen condemned the invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international law and has welcomed Ukrainian refugees.

“She was able to change her brand image,” David Dubois, professor of digital marketing at Insead, a leading business school, told the Financial Times. “She’s really made an effort to change her discourse from immigration to rising prices and how to increase the purchasing power of French people.”

Contrast that with Macron, who has throughout his five years in power been viewed as an aloof elitist — a “Jupiterian” president, as the French put it, ensconced in his Olympian abode. The former investment banker is attacked both by Le Pen and his critics to the left as an effete figure ruling for the rich, disconnected from the concerns of ordinary French workers.

In an interview with the Spectator, a right-leaning British publication, Le Pen cast Macron as an agent of global capital. “The policies I want to implement are not meant for the stock markets, which will be a change from Emmanuel Macron,” she said. “It’s not the markets that create jobs, it’s not international finance.”

(…) She claimed Macron’s objective is “to encourage nomadism, the permanent movement of uprooted people from one continent to another, to make them interchangeable and, in essence, to render them anonymous”…

Continue their election analysis at the Washington Post

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