Tonight the results of the French Presidential election were made public: Emmanuel Macron, the head of the center-right party En March!, and Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front (far-right and nationalist) are both qualified for the second round with respectively over 23% and 21% of the votes.
Many voters including myself are relieved to see that a candidate as moderate as Macron will be in the second round against Le Pen. Macron was not my favourite, but he is a moderate, and avoiding us a nightmare second round with Fillon vs. Le Pen. Right after the results of the first round were made public, Macron received support from most of the losing candidates who called their voters to vote for him against Le Pen.
A young head of State, liberal, leading the reforms France needs against a semi-fascist, anti-Muslim, nationalist and anti-Europe candidate. Macron will win, of course he will, you might think. And sadly, you might be wrong. I identified 5 reasons why Le Pen has chances of winning on the 7th of May:
- France out of EU & NATO, a disaster? Most French don’t care about France on the international scene. Do you think voters will decide to vote for Macron because they are afraid of Marine Le Pen’s positions on the EU and NATO? Many foreign political commentators say that a Frexit will be a disaster for the European Union and most probably destroy it. That her positions on NATO are unacceptable and would have consequences for the country, the relations with the US etc. That her political romance with Putin will lead to a trio of democracy-haters on the Security Council of the UN. But you need to see one thing. This election is not about France abroad, it is about how every single French voter feels about how their country is led. And who they want to lead it. Do you think that the guy who lives in a suburb of Paris and votes Le Pen because he believes he would have a job if his other neighbours (probably also French citizens, but with immigrant background) had not been allowed to come to France gives a crap about NATO? Nope. Do you think that the couple who feels threatened by women with a hijab in the metro because they show another face of France which is not Catholic gives a crap about the UN? That those the parents who demonstrated for months in the streets agiainst gay marriage wants to see a liberal guy ruling France rather than a woman who says the she will bring back the “traditional family” think about the EU?I get that foreigners see the impact of this election on their own country, but stop believing that so many Le Pen voters care about those things too. Those who have voted for her now and many more who will vote for her in the second round look at France, not the world.
2. The Conservative Catholic Vote: Many Fillon-voters are ultra conservatives and will prefer Le Pen to Macron in the second round.
Although Fillon called his voters to vote against Le Pen, I believe many Conservative Catholics who for example demonstrated in the streets against the gay marriage , and those who did not send their kids to schools because they believed combatting gender stereotypes at school means teaching children how to have sex (or how to become gay…) will prefer voting for Le Pen than for Macron. He is not conservative enough relating to gay marriage and LGTBQ rights in general, and has no intention in going back to a “traditional view of family” such as many Fillon’s voters would like to see tomorrow’s France. Luckily many of his voters are (hopefully) also Republican and old. Old people in France don’t like Le Pen’s party very much, and remember her father’s affiliation with Nazi movements. I guess polls will be predicting how many of his voters will actually vote for Macron in the next 2 weeks.
3. The Anti-European vote. Many Mélenchon voters will also vote Le Pen.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is the leader of La France Insoumise, on the far left, and Le Pen have many things in common, such as a suspicion regarding the European Union and European institutions. He also represented a real change in the discourse. Many commentators said his political program was largely unrealistic to implement, but the French voted massively for him, with an unbelievable score above 19%, just behind Fillon. At the moment I am writing this article Mélenchon has not said whom he called his voters to vote for in the second round. But I believe that many Mélenchon voters will vote for Le Pen, going from one extreme to another on the political spectrum. They are the only two candidates who offer a real change in the political system, and who reject the Europe as it stands now. One huge different between them is the view of immigration. The French who believe that the European Union is the source of our economic problems, and that a drastic change is needed in the leadership and the system this country is based on might actually vote for Le Pen on the second round. Especially if he refuses to ally against her.
3. The “Republican Front” a.k.a the alliance against the National Front has cracked open.
Since 2002, when Le Pen (father) got high enough scores to be qualified for the second round of the Presidential election (against Jacques Chirac), the French voters of the left and the right allied in a “Republic Front” against Le Pen. The aim was not to make Chirac win, but to make Le Pen lose, whomever was against him. Great idea then, Chirac got over 80% and jokes went around that those scores only happen in dictatorships where results are fake and votes are bought. The “Republican Front” has worked during some years, but recently the front has been cracked, when in 2011 Conservatives have adopted a new political strategy, the “Neither (Socialist Party), Nor (National Front)”. Which means that this front is broken. Although right after the results most party leaders have called their voters to vote for Le Pen, as mentioned above, this will not be enough. Many voters have already shifted from a Conservative vote to a National Front vote in other elections from round 1 to round 2. Why not do it now? Why follow the current advice from Fillon for example, when the older version of his party called to the opposite recently?
4. Rhetorics, patriotism, and political experience. Where Le Pen might convince more French people to vote for her.
Le Pen has dreamt of being in the second round against Macron because he represents everything her party feeds itself on to get voters. He loves the EU and wants to keep the Euro, is a capitalist (banker), former Minister in Hollande’s government. Her discourse is to say that this is about voting for the Patriots, who defend and believe in our country France, and those who want the “mondialisation” to govern us (read EU, international capitalism etc.). Not so hard for someone as articulated as Marine Le Pen to make people believe Macron is pro-EU, and therefore anti-patriotic. Not so hard for someone good in rhetorics and discourse to make some believe that Macron is pro-EU and therefore anti-patriotic. She will argue that there is a conspiracy from the media and the industrial groups to make him their puppet and suck out the life out of France.
I hope he will be clever enough and strategic enough to use other arguments than “the republican front”. He needs to attack her on her unfeasibility of her economic programme for example, and her corruption cases, and god knows what else. But she is a rhetoric beast, and a clever one… Macron has little political experience, has never been elected into any office, but who knows, he might surprise us!
5. The French are tired of voting against someone. We need to ally for Macron, not against Le Pen.
I understand the discourse of many of those who lost, saying we need to ally against Le Pen, fascism or whatever people believe she stands for. But we are tired of voting against someone, we want to vote for someone. Also, as mentioned above, those who remember Le Pen father and how the National Front was founded are old. And the youth is a big supporter of Le Pen. They don’t know her father, and what they see is the party as she represents it: cleaner. I hope Macron will convince the undecided French voters to believe in his programme rather to feed on the fear that Le Pen in power might bring to them. I hope that he will include diversity in his government, including political diversity, to represent all the French voters who will vote for him and hopefully make him win. And that he will not do as Chirac, think that we gave him the keys to the castle for him to do as he pleases.
My aim here is not to be a party pooper. I just want to remind people, and especially French voters, that Marine Le Pen has not yet lost this election. She can still lead our country, have a veto on the Security Council of the UN, get France out of the EU, try to get our old currency back (the Franc instead of the Euro), stop immigration completely and start digging into whether all of us are French enough to have the citizenship. To lead politics which will be a disaster for women’s rights, relating to abortion rights for example. To lead a country she believes at war, and transform our nation into her garden where extremism can blossom. So, read Macron’s programme, find something you like in it, and vote for him light-heartedly.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post right after the result of the first round of the elections, on the 23rd of April. Many things might have changed between the moment I wrote this article and the moment you read it.