French elections: Emmanuel Macron will face Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election

The centrist Macron and Le Pen, a longtime flag bearer for the French far right, were the top two candidates in Sunday’s first round of voting, with 27.8% and 23.2% of the ballot, respectively, according to the French interior ministry. Ministry.

Twelve candidates ran for the top job. As neither received more than 50% of the ballots in the first round, the top two candidates will face each other in the second round on April 24th.

According to an analysis by Ifop-Fiducial for French broadcasters TF1 and LCI, the first round of the 2022 contest was marked by voter apathy, with participation estimated at 73.3%, the lowest in the first round in 20 years.

While Macron received more votes than any other candidate in the first round, he is a polarizing figure whose approval ratings sank during his first term.

In his speech after the polls closed on Sunday, he called on citizens to vote in the second round.

“Nothing has been decided and the debate we will have in the next 15 days is crucial for our country and our Europe,” he said. “I don’t want a France that, leaving Europe, would have international populists and xenophobes as its only allies. It’s not us. I want a France that is true to humanism, to the spirit of enlightenment,” he said.

Macron is aiming to become the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002. The polls have given him a consistent edge over the rest, but the race has intensified significantly over the past month.

An Ifop-Fiducial poll released on Sunday showed Macron would win in the second round of the competition against Le Pen with just 51% to 49%.

Support for Le Pen has steadily grown in recent weeks. While she is best known for her far-right policies, such as drastically restricting immigration and banning Muslim hijabs in public places, she campaigned more grassroots this time around, toning down her language and focusing on wallet issues like the rising cost of living. , the main concern of the French electorate.

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

Left-wing instigator Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in third with 22% of the vote. He enjoyed a late burst of support and was considered a possible dark horse candidate to challenge Macron.

According to experts, the choice of a candidate for the presidency can be decided by Mélenchon voters in the second round. Mélenchon told his supporters that “we should not give a single vote to Ms Le Pen”, but clearly did not support Macron.

No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote. Far-right political commentator-turned-presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who was among the top three candidates until March, was ranked fourth in the Ifop poll. 7.1%.

Other candidates in Sunday’s ballot quickly began to support the first two. While Zemmour urged his supporters to vote for Le Pen, others urged their supporters to stay away from her.

Candidates from the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties, socialists and republicans, have already backed Macron.

Socialist Anne Hidalgo said that Le Pen’s victory would create “hatred of all against all” in France, while Republican Valerie Pecresse said she was genuinely concerned for the country because “the far right has never been so close to victory.”

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

A woman takes the ballot in the first round of the French presidential election in Lyon, central France, on Sunday.

Revenge

Macron’s political rise has shattered the rules of the game as his centrist political party has torn supporters away from the traditional center parties, socialists and republicans. Both of his candidates won less than 5% of the vote on Sunday.

Pre-race polls indicated that Macron’s runoff against Le Pen was the most likely outcome. Macron handily beat Le Pen five years ago, but pundits say the second matchup between the two will be much tighter than the 2017 race.

Macron is no longer a political upstart and has a controversial reputation. While his ambitious plan to strengthen the autonomy and geopolitical weight of the European Union has earned him respect abroad and at home, he remains a divisive figure when it comes to domestic politics. His treatment of the yellow vest movement, one of the longest-running protests in France in decades, has been widely criticized, and his account of the Covid-19 pandemic is inconclusive.

Macron’s signature policy during the crisis, requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to lead a normal life, helped boost vaccination rates but turned a vocal minority against his presidency.

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

Macron has campaigned very little so far. Experts believe his strategy was to avoid political slander as long as possible in order to flaunt his image as the most presidential candidate of all. The poll showed that he consistently leads among all candidates, and he was considered to have passed to the second round.

“The widespread dissatisfaction with Macron (especially among young people) means that the outcome is uncertain and unpredictable. Le Pen will continue to use this, and therefore a major political upheaval remains possible,” CNN European affairs columnist Dominic Thomas said in the second round. match.

“As much as they dislike Le Pen, there is a huge difference between her and Macron, and how she will destroy European and global politics.”

Le Pen is the daughter of another prominent far-right presidential candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen. The older Le Pen made it to the second round against Jacques Chirac in 2002, but Marine Le Pen has outperformed her father in the first round of each of the last two presidential elections.

Le Pen tried to present herself as a very different candidate than the one who lost to Macron in 2017, when she tried to position herself to the forgotten French working class as her country’s answer to then US President Donald Trump. Although her economic nationalist stance, views on immigration, Euroscepticism and attitudes towards Islam in France did not change, Le Pen sought to expand her appeal.

At first the contest was supposed to be a referendum on far-right dominance in French politics, but the war in Ukraine — another key issue for voters — turned the race around.

Support for Macron peaked in early March, according to an Ifop poll, when would-be voters rallied around the flag and rewarded the president for his attempts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine before the Russian invasion, even if they failed.

Many experts also expected the war to hurt Le Pen, who was an ardent admirer of Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader who became a pariah in the West over the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine in late February. Le Pen visited the Russian president during her 2017 election campaign; this time, she was forced to throw away a flyer with a photo of her and Putin from that trip following Russia’s unprovoked attack on her neighbor.

Thomas, a European affairs columnist for CNN, explained that the upcoming debate will be critical if Macron is to convince voters that Le Pen’s previous support for Putin should disenfranchise her.

“It will be vulnerable on a range of domestic issues, but it will be difficult for her to convince the electorate of her foreign policy credentials, especially given her long-standing ties to Russia,” he said.

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