The first round of Sunday’s presidential election in France promises above all a tight battle for second place. There are twelve candidates, but the favorite is still clear – current President Emmanuel Macron. However, if successful, a less active campaign could stand out just after the election.
“It can come back to him like a boomerang in the form of various frustrations, which can turn again into a yellow vest movement,” explains Lukáš Macek, political scientist and director of the European Po Poems campus in Dijon, in an interview with Euractiv.cz.
How is France preparing for the presidential election?
It’s a very special campaign, to some extent it’s a bit of a “non-campaign”. Emmanuel Macron seemed to have a strategy of “going beyond” the election, if you will, and keeping the campaign to a minimum. And the war in Ukraine somehow strengthened it. I wouldn’t say that the campaign is completely invisible, but it is very strongly impacted thematically by the current context, and the level of public attention to the election is lower than usual in France.
Eva Faltusová’s text was originally published on the Euractiv server, with which HlídacíPes.org cooperates.
Do you think that Emmanuel Macron, with his efforts to resolve Russian aggression, has strengthened his position in the eyes of the French?
The knee-jerk that the advocate president is strengthened in an international crisis, because people tend to come together and not add uncertainty to uncertainty, has certainly worked. Also, I think it helped Macron tremendously to emphasize the difference between him as the incumbent president and the candidates who run after him and try to exist. In addition, many candidates, and especially the most dangerous for him, have a problem because of their past relationships and statements to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Macron thus imposes himself in a role to which no other candidate can adapt.
Will the yellow vests return?
According to polls, 40% of the French population now believe Macron. Has he succeeded in resolving the current crisis?
The crisis is still going on, so it is impossible to determine whether it succeeded or failed. But most French people see him more positively, that he has worked hard and has been active. Another thing that favors him is that it’s all part of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, so that again gives him a bonus. He is one of those who speak on behalf of the EU. It is at the heart of today’s EU, which the other candidates simply cannot compensate for.
Can the situation in Ukraine also have a negative effect on Macron’s position?
What may be trivial are the economic implications that may affect elections. For example, if there was an even bigger rise in fuel prices or inflation in general, his line could be hit hard. There may also be a few surprises, let’s not forget previous elections, when the initial favorite completely blew up.
Rather, I think there is a big risk that if Macron is re-elected, the problems will start the day after the election. And that this somewhat strange election campaign can come back to him like a boomerang in the form of various frustrations, which can turn into a yellow vest type movement and so on. I think that because of the “non-militants”, there may be a relatively ingrained feeling in a certain part of French society that the elections were somewhat stolen from voters. This could have an impact on the perception of its legitimacy and may be a factor that could weaken it in the long term.
However, Macron now holds the position of favorite candidate, who has also “chaired” the Council of the EU since January. They are still the ideas of the French Presidency realised?
I would say that the French Presidency somehow “ended” in two ways. The first is the presidential election and the second is the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which has totally changed the priorities. However, I had the opportunity to communicate with some French diplomats and I have the feeling that they have completely fulfilled the agenda and the objectives that they wanted to advance. It may seem harsh, but the Ukrainian crisis has somehow caught up with the French presidency in its traditional defense and strategy files. In this context, Macron’s conception of the European Union has found an echo even in States traditionally more skeptical on these subjects, starting with Germany. For another presidency, this type of crisis could be absolutely devastating, France reacted with a certain continuity and further promotes the emphasis on Europe as a sovereign power.
Emmanuel Macron is a permanent European of the 27 at the end of his mandate, especially in relation to the situation of the new German chancellor. Olaf Scholz or Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala. Does this favor it in any way among national and European audiences?
When Macron took office, he seemed to have many of the ambitions he expressed in his grand speeches, such as the Sorbonne. However, it seemed that he kept to himself and rather had no partners. The situation today is different, however, Macron has put himself in the center of the action. If he is re-elected, I think he will start his second term in a relatively strong position on the European stage. This does not change the fact that no European country can take the whole EU forward and allies will have to be sought. However, efforts to build stronger alliances across the EU are more present in French politics today. Topics that set Macrona apart from the rest of Europe are more topical and acceptable today.
Is there still a Franco-German tandem? What will be the cooperation with Chancellor Scholz and the other Member States?
If he defends this mandate, I think that the current German coalition is a more suitable partner for him than the previous one. It is a coalition where Macron’s themes resonate more than under Angela Merkel’s previous government. There are convergences. Moreover, I personally think that the current context could open the door to a certain stabilization of East-West relations. When I focus on the subject of our conversation, I think of settling relations between France and Central Europe.
The new geopolitical situation could lead all actors to compromise and settle relations within the Weimar Triangle (Germany, France, Poland), which seemed very complicated two months ago. The Hungarian elections can also send a signal regarding the development of the Visegrad Four relationship and cooperation with France and the rest of the EU. There is pressure and at the same time an opportunity to restore relations. Many things seemed impossible, but now they will be, and Emmanuel Macron will certainly play a part in this game, if elected.
A well-played game with an open ending
And what do the polls say about his re-election, give him a chance?
In the first lap he should clearly be in the lead with a relatively large lead, which does not mean that he will win in the second lap (the interview reflects the situation since the beginning of this week, editor’s note. red.). It depends on who gets there. For a long time, no research showed that anyone would be able to beat him in the second round, but the game is more or less even. The second round is simply tricky, because the “all against Macron” principle can work. It is very premature to think that Macron has this choice in his pocket, but the game is well played for him. However, two or three mistakes are enough in each campaign and everything can be different, so the game always has an open ending. But so far I have the feeling that Emmanuel Macron is the favorite of this choice, even if for him certain candidates in the second round can be more or less difficult opponents.
On the first lap, therefore, it looks like a dramatic battle for second place, and therefore for the second lap overall. How are the other candidates, and in particular those who are part of the populist and extreme fringe of the political spectrum?
Polls have so far given Marine Le Pen a certain edge (National association, extreme right), which went through a difficult period when the influx of votes in favor of Eric Zemmour (independent, extreme right) looked menacing. But she seems to have managed to stop this trend, and on the contrary, now ‘Zemmour is at a much worse stage. But it is true that the Ukrainian crisis is not entirely good for these candidates in my opinion.
On the contrary, there is speculation that far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (France unground, far left) was able to draw votes from the left overall and thus, somewhat surprisingly, qualify for the second round. However, centre-left oriented voters could then fall back on Macron, which is already happening. Former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe of the Socialist Party, for example, declared his support for Macron in the first round, even though his successor ran for the Socialists. In recent days, this scenario does not seem impossible, but Mélenchon will have a hard time, always because of his relations with Russia and Putin.
Then, of course, there is the center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse, who is the only candidate who does not belong to the extreme force and who has at least a small real chance of advancing to the second round. However, her campaign is also struggling, and her Republican House is split into two camps – loyal to her and supporting Macron.
So what is the most likely final scenario?
Today, on paper, it looks like a “remake” of 2017, i.e. Macron against Le Pen. Le Pen should probably be able to torment Macron more than he was in 2017, and the final score will probably be less flattering for Macron.
It looks like the number of votes needed for the second round will be low, as many “weaker paper” candidates are running this year. It’s entirely possible that someone makes it to the second round with 14-15% of the vote, which would be the lowest result in election history, and in theory it can happen. Candidates generally go to the second round with more than 20% of the votes. The lowest percentage of votes to date was recorded in 2002, when Jacques Chirac (Association for the Republic) with less than 20% and Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of Marine Le Pen, with 16.8%.
It’s an open game, and the scenario of leftist voters packing on Mélenchon at the last minute and him surprisingly advancing to the second round is possible. The Macron vs. Zemmour scenario can also happen. Today, that seems unlikely, but indeed, second place in the second round is open like never before.
Did you like this text?
Support us via Donate or transfer via QR code
Thank you very much for your support!
Online payment is provided by Darujme.cz