There is only one week left until French citizens head to the polls for the first round of voting in their country’s presidential election. National Front’s Marine Le Pen and En Marche!’s Emmanuel Macron are expected to make it to the second round.
There are officially 11 candidates vying for the same office. One in four French voters still say there are undecided – making this race one of the most unpredictable in decades. Polling indicates a tight race between Le Pen and Macron for the first round, but also show Macron leading in the second round of voting.
The tales of the two leading parties are descriptions of meteoric rises from obscurity.
The National Front was long considered a fringe, far-right party with flirtations with racism, anti-Semitism and ant-immigration sentiment. The Party was founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen – who was labeled a “demon” by French media. However, things changed considerably for the National Front when his daughter, Marine Le Pen, took over in 2011. She began a campaign of softening The Party’s image in an attempt to appeal to a broader base.
How serious was she in reforming the National Front? She kicked her own father (The Party’s founder and leader for decades) out for insensitive remarks. This strategy of “normalizing” the National Front, and a spike in Islamic terrorist attacks in the country, have led to a surge in support. For the first time since its inception, the National Front is within striking distance of occupying the Élysée Palace.
If this sudden surge in party appeal is impressive – En Marche!’s story will be stunning.
Emmanuel Macron was a member of the Socialist Party before branching off to form his own, new party – En Marche! (meaning: Let’s Go!). He made a career in investment banking and has never held public office before. In 2014, he was appointed as France’s economic minister by President Francois Hollande.
How new is En Marche!? …Macron founded the Party just last year.
Since that time, his Party has done what every expert believed to be impossible and has surged into the political mainstream. Macron labels the party as more-or-less a centrist one, with moderate stances on the economy, the EU and immigration. The Party’s backbone is made up of a volunteer army that has propelled it into relevancy – many of them young and disillusioned with the status quo of mainstream French politics.
What are the big differences between Le Pen and Macron?
The election between the two has certainly been dubbed a globalist-vs-nationalist battle. Le Pen has even called Macron’s policies “savage globalization.” Macron supports France’s membership in the EU and is unabashedly pro-immigration. Conversely, Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum of France’s EU membership and has made immigration skepticism a backbone of her campaign.
With about a week until the first round of voting begins, Le Pen is polling at 23 percent and Macron at 22 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the center-right François Fillon are only polling a few points behind, so this could still be anybody’s game between the top four. Numbers show a last-minute surge for Melenchon, whereas Fillon has fallen flat in recent days due to a public funding scandal.
Unfortunately for Le Pen, she appears to poll poorly in second matchups to the other three. She will more-than-likely make it past the first round, but not progress any further.