Outsider candidates Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron are poised to contest the second round run off as they seek to become the next President of France in May, according to recent polls.
Front National leader Le Pen aims to ride the same anti-establishment tide that resulted in victories for Brexit and Trump. Macron, meanwhile, has emerged as a centrist alternative as the two major parties flounder in the polls.
Current President Francois Hollande elected not to run, due to polls showing him to be the most unpopular president since the fall of De Gaulle in 1969. The Socialist candidate Benoit Harmon, a figure from the far-left of the party, has yet to emerge from under Hollande’s unpopularity.
With the Socialist Party in disarray, Le Republique were expected to profit. Their candidate Francois Fillon became an immediate front-runner once he had claimed the party’s nomination. However, Fillon has struggled since the ‘Penelopegate’ scandal alleged he paid his wife and children using public funds for work they did not carry out emerged.
Thus, the two most popular candidates in France appear to be Le Pen and Macron. A showdown between the two is likely, leading many to fear the possibility of another victory for the far-right in the Western World.
Le Pen is no more a populist than Trump has ever been. Being a populist requires a majority of the country to agree with your views, and that has never been the case for either controversial politician.
The French electorate system will not allow for a similar scenario to Trump’s victory (where he won despite Clinton receiving 2.8 million more votes). In France, a candidate must receive a majority backing from the voters before they are ushered into office.
Similarly, a situation like Brexit is unlikely to happen, as the 2002 Presidential Election proved that the people of France are never complacent in the face of possible disaster. Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine Le Pen and then leader of Front National, unexpectedly made it to the two candidate run off in 2002 by receiving roughly 17% of the first round vote.
The French response was shocking in its uniformity. Jacques Chirac won the Presidency by winning 82% of the vote, receiving more than 20 million more votes than the senior Le Pen.
Not a single poll has ever shown Le Pen winning the run off. Despite recent dips in popularity, both Macron and Fillion are projected to beat her by 15 to 20 percentage points.
Also of note is the General Election of 2015. In the first round of voting, Front National were the most popular party and looked likely to gain control of 6 of France’s 12 electoral regions. In the second round, however, mass tactical voting prevented the party from gaining control of a single region. Something similar is likely to occur in the forthcoming election, despite the growing anti-establishment fervour.
The fact that neither of the candidates from Le Republique or the Socialist Party are projected to make the run off indicates a significant shift in the political landscape. Le Pen will come closer to being elected than her father ever managed. This alone is a cause for concern.
Yet while anti-establishment feeling is high in the country, it should not be forgotten that Macron is also an outsider candidate. His En Marche! movement did not exist in any great capacity until he began campaigning for the Presidency. Macron recently received a bump in the polls after centrist candidate Francois Bayrou pledged his support to the 39 year old. Such endorsements will become more common as his popularity grows.
Should the former Economy Minister reach the run off he will win the support of the left and the centre. Provided the conservative Le Republique party also supports his candidacy, it appears unlikely he will lose to Le Pen.
Marine Le Pen will win the first round of voting in April. Expect a majority of the country to unite against her during the second round in May.