French election: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen on their way to advance to the round, data show

Macron, France’s current president, appears to be taking 28.6% of the vote, placing him in first place, according to an analysis by pollster Ifop-Fiducial for French television companies TF1 and LCI. Le Pen, who has long been the flag bearer of the French far right, is on track to become number two with 23.6%.

Twelve candidates ran for the top spot. If neither of them receives more than 50% of the ballot papers, the two best candidates will meet in a re-election on 24 April. But another round is almost guaranteed – no French presidential candidate has ever won the first round under the current system.

The competition was marked by voter apathy, according to Ifop-Fiducial. Voter turnout was estimated at 73.3%, the lowest in a first round in 20 years. While Macron appears to be on track to win the first round, he is a polarizing figure whose approval rating has lagged during his first period.

Macron urged voters to come out to the second round of a speech after the polls closed.

“Nothing has been decided and the debate we want for the next 15 days is crucial for our country and our Europe,” he said. “I do not want a France that, after leaving Europe, would have the international populists and xenophobia as its only allies. It is not us. I want a France that is faithful to humanism, against the spirit of enlightenment,” he said. he.

Macron is seeking to become the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002. While opinion polls have given him a consistent lead over the field, the race has tightened considerably in the past month.

Le Pen’s support has risen steadily in recent weeks. Although she is best known for her right-wing extremist policies such as drastic restrictions on immigration and bans on Muslim headscarves in public places, she has run a more mainstream campaign this time, softening her language and focusing more on wallet issues such as rising living costs, a large concern for French voters.

In his speech on Sunday, Le Pen promised to be president of “all the French” if she wins the second round, and urged those who did not vote for Macron to support her in the second round.

In third place came the left-leaning zealot Jean-Luc Melenchon with 20.1%. Melenchon enjoyed a late increase in support and was considered a possible dark horse candidate to challenge Macron.

No other candidate received more than 10% of the votes according to the analysis. The far right political commentator was presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who had a seat among the top three candidates until March according to the Ifop poll, finishing fourth with 7%.

The candidates on the verge of losing have quickly started throwing their support behind the top two. While Zemmour urged her backers to vote for Le Pen, the others have urged their backers to avoid her.

Melenchon told his supporters that “we must not give a single vote to Mrs Le Pen,” and the candidates from the traditional center-left and center-right parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, have already supported Macron.

The Socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo, said a Le Pen victory would instill in France “a hatred for all against all,” while the Republican, Valerie Pecresse, said she was genuinely concerned about the country because “the far right has never been like that. close to winning. “

“Marine Le Pen’s project will open France to divisions, impotence and collapse,” Pecresse said.

Omkampen

Pre-race studies showed that another round of Macron vs. Le Pen was the most likely outcome. Macron beat Le Pen five years ago, but experts have said another competition between the two would be much closer than the 2017 race.

Macron is no longer a political upstart and must run on a mixed board. While his ambitious plan to strengthen the EU’s autonomy and geopolitical weight won him respect abroad and at home, he is still a divisive figure when it comes to domestic policy. His handling of the yellow vest movement, one of France’s most protracted protests in decades, was widely panned, and his record of the Covid-19 pandemic is not unequivocal.

Macron’s signature policy during the crisis – which required people to show proof of vaccination to live their lives as normal – helped boost vaccination rates, but fired a vociferous minority against his presidency.

French President Emmanuel Macron (center), next to his wife Brigitte Macron (left), speaks with a resident before voting in the first round of Sunday's presidential election.

Macron has so far made very little campaign. Experts believe his strategy was to avoid the political mudslinging for as long as possible to mark his image as the most presidential of all the candidates. Polls showed he consistently led all candidates and he was considered a shoo-in to reach the second round.

Voting from Ifop-Fiducial published on Sunday showed that Macron would win another round of competition against Le Pen by only 51% to 49%.

“The widespread dissatisfaction with Macron (especially among young people) means that the outcome is uncertain and unpredictable. Le Pen will continue to exploit this, and a major political disturbance is therefore still possible,” said Dominic Thomas, chairman of the French department and French. Francophone Studies at UCLA, said about the potential second round.

“No matter how much they dislike Le Pen, there is a world of difference between her and Macron, and how she would disrupt European and global politics.”

Le Pen has tried to portray herself as a very different candidate than the one who lost practically to Macron in 2017, as she tried to position herself against the forgotten French working classes as her country’s response to then-US President Donald Trump. While her economic nationalist stance, views on immigration, Euroscepticism and attitudes towards Islam in France remain unchanged, Le Pen has sought to expand her appeal.

The competition was initially predicted to be a referendum on the dominance of the extreme right wing in French politics, but the war in Ukraine – another key issue for voters – set up the race.

Macron has held the grip on first place in most polls ahead of this year’s election. Ifop polls showed his support peaked in early March as potential voters gathered around the flag and rewarded the president for his attempts to mediate the conflict in Ukraine before Russia’s invasion, even though it was a failure.

Many experts also expected that the war would hurt Le Pen, who had been a vocal admirer of Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader who has become a pariah in the West because of the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine in late February. Le Pen visited the Russian president during her 2017 campaign, but this time she was forced to scrap a leaflet with a picture of her and Putin from that trip after Russia’s unprovoked attack on its neighbor.

Thomas, the expert at UCLA, explained that the upcoming debates will be crucial if Macron is to convince voters that Le Pen’s previous support for Putin should disqualify her.

“He will be vulnerable in a number of domestic issues, but she will have a hard time convincing voters of her foreign policy credentials, especially given her long-standing ties with Russia,” he said.

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