“Things are serious”: the French Presidential Election

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“C’est grave,” (things are serious) said the monsieur who sells me the papers every morning. A resident of Mantes-la-Jolie (a working class town at the western edge of the Paris region), he laments a lack of clarity on the dangers of the Front National (FN) not only among colleagues and neighbours but also parties and politicians.

Ni Marine, Ni Emmanuel

 

The situation in France is indeed serious. A week before the second-round vote, Marine Le Pen has made progress in the polls but still trails Emmanuel Macron by a margin of about 18 per cent. However, analysts have pointed out that mass abstention could bring her within winning range. There is no need to be alarmist to make a sober observation: a defeat of Le Pen is not a foregone conclusion.

 

As we speak, a number of dynamics favourable to Le Pen are unfolding. In 2002, father Le Pen's presence in the second round of the Presidential election produced a ground swell of anti-FN mass mobilization. As I write these lines, days after a round of high school student street protests against Le Pen and Macron, and hours before the May Day marches, no such mobilizations have happened so far. There are a number of reasons for this.

 

Politics of Alliances

 

On the right, a constellation of FN support is emerging. The right sovereignist and self-described Gaullist Nicolas Dupont-Aignon, who garnered almost 5 per cent of the vote in the first round, declared his support for Le Pen in return for a promise to be appointed Prime Minister. The Republican candidate Francois Fillon, who received 20 per cent in the first round, supports a vote for Macron, but not all of his supporters are following him. During Fillon's Thatcherite, social conservative and ‘anti-system’ campaign (which blamed judges, opponents and the media for his own corruption scandal), many of these had already said, quite logically, that they would support Le Pen more than Macron should Fillon fail to reach the second round. Most prominent among those refusing to heed his current advice to vote for Macron is the right-wing Catholic organization Sens Commun, which emerged in 2013 from the mass mobilizations against gay marriage. Unlike Muslim and Jewish organizations, the Catholic Church (and the Pope) has not come out against Le Pen (it did in 2002).

 

Read the rest of Stefan Kipfer’s ‘Update on the French Presidential Election