Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen placed in the top two, respectively, in the first round of round of the French presidential election. Macron came in with 23.9 percent of the total vote and Le Pen finished a close second with 21.4 percent.
Their victories mark the first time in many years in which a mainstream political party has failed to enter the second round of voting. The Republicans’ Francois Fillon and the Socialist Party’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon came at a very close third and fourth, but nevertheless did not make the cut.
With two political parties outside the “mainstream” entering the second round, one thing is glaringly obvious among French voters: They are tired of the status quo.
However, despite National Front’s Marine Le Pen and En Marche!’s Emmanuel Macron both having an outsider image, their vision for France could not be farther apart.
Dubbed by some as the “French Donald Trump,” Marine Le Pen has rode a wave of rising French nationalism. She has campaigned heavily on protecting the country’s jobs from globalization, holding a referendum on France’s European Union membership and calling for stricter immigration policies amid rising Islamic terror threats.
Macron’s stances could not appear to be more opposite. A former investment banker, he has spoken strongly in favor of free trade, supports EU membership and does not share Le Pen’s concerns over Islamic radicalism. Despite lacking establishment support for the majority of the campaign, Macron and his En Marche! party have now received the backing of major French politicians – as he is seen as the only means of preventing Le Pen from becoming president. In their concession speeches, several failed presidential candidates announced their support for Macron.
Who will win between the two?
Polling does not appear good for Le Pen. Polls correctly showed her making it to the second round. They now indicate her losing badly to Macron. A Harris poll conducted on Sunday shows Macron sailing ahead of Le Pen 64 to 34 percent – with other polls showing similar results. Le Pen has made a last-minute decision to step down as leader of the National Front – a symbolic move to appear above the political fray and to appeal to a broader base of voters.
Looking at the results of the first round, it is hard not to make comparisons to the 2016 presidential election in the United States. Macron scored highly among the rich and highly educated, whereas Le Pen found strong support in the more rural, less educated districts. Blue collar workers enjoyed Le Pen’s rhetoric of “France First” and her opposition to deregulation. The candidates’ opposing stances on free trade and globalization resulted in similar bastions of support to that of the American electorate.
For Le Pen’s sake, she better hope current polling is as wrong it was for the 2016 election. She will need to ride a wave of insurgency if she hopes to prevail against a mounting political establishment come May 7.