After both advancing in the first round of voting in the country’s election on Sunday, incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in a winner-takes-all runoff for the presidency, setting up another head-to-head showdown of their drastically contrasting visions for France.
However, while Macron won his previous election by a landslide in 2017 to become France’s youngest-ever president, a repeat performance this time is far from certain. Macron, 44, won the first round on Sunday, but the runoff is basically a fresh election, and the next two weeks of campaigning leading up to the April 24 second-round vote will be harsh and combative against his 53-year-old political foe.
Le Pen was richly rewarded Sunday at the voting box for her years-long effort to portray herself as more pragmatic and less extremist as she launches her third bid to become France’s first female president. Macron has accused Le Pen of promoting an extreme agenda that includes racist and destructive proposals. Le Pen wants to take away certain of Muslims’ rights, such as the ability to wear headscarves in public, and dramatically decrease immigration from outside Europe.
She received her best-ever first-round vote total on Sunday. Macron had little over 27% of the vote with the majority of the ballots counted, while Le Pen had just under 24%. With over 22% of the vote, hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon finished third, just missing out on the two-candidate playoff.
Despite his presidency being plagued by a seemingly unending succession of domestic and international crises, Macron improved on his first-round performance in 2017. They include Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has cast a pall over the election and drawn his attention away from the campaign.
With polls indicating that the runoff versus Le Pen may be tight, Macron threw himself into the fight right away.
Macron cautioned fans chanting “five more years” on Sunday night that “nothing is done” and that the runoff election will be “decisive for our nation and for Europe.”
“That’s not us,” he declared, claiming that Le Pen will unite France with “populists and xenophobes.”
He remarked, “I want to reach out to everyone who wants to work for France.” “We will carry forward the goal of development, of French and European openness and independence that we have campaigned for,” he said.
As Europe strives to limit the carnage inflicted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the election outcome will have far-reaching geopolitical implications. Macron has been a major supporter of EU sanctions on Russia, while Le Pen has expressed concern about their impact on French living standards. Macron is also a strong advocate of NATO and tight cooperation among the 27 countries of the European Union.
For months, Macron appeared to be a shoe-in to become France’s first president to win a second term in 20 years. However, in a late surge, National Rally leader Le Pen struck into the top problem on many French voters’ minds: rising food, gas, and heating prices owing to rising inflation, as well as the ramifications of Western sanctions on Russia.
Both Macron and Le Pen must now reach out to voters who supported the ten presidential candidates who were eliminated on Sunday if they are to win in round two.
The runoff vote will be excruciating for some of the losers’ disgruntled supporters. Melenchon voter Jennings Tangly, a 21-year-old English student at Paris’ Sorbonne University, described the second-round match-up as a “decision between the plague and cholera” for her.
She called Macron’s presidency “abject,” but said she would vote for him in the second round only to keep Le Pen out of the Elysee Palace.
“Rather than a vote of my emotions, it would be a vote of survival,” she explained.
“We’re going to win!” screamed Le Pen’s supporters as they drank champagne. For round two, she attempted to woo left-wing voters by promising remedies for “a France ripped apart.”
She said the second round gives voters “a crucial option between two opposed visions of the future: either Emmanuel Macron’s separation, injustice, and chaos for the advantage of the few, or the unification of French people behind social justice and protection.”
Some of her vanquished opponents were so concerned about the potential of Le Pen defeating Macron that they pushed their followers to vote for the incumbent in the second round on Sunday. “We must not give one vote to Mrs. Le Pen,” Melenchon declared again, addressing supporters who were occasionally in tears.
Valerie Pecresse, the failed conservative candidate, described herself as “very concerned” and warned of “the mayhem that would ensue” if Le Pen was elected, claiming the far-right leader had never come so near to power. In the runoff, Pecresse stated she would vote for Macron.
Macron will try to rip apart Le Pen’s attempt to recast herself as a less dangerous political force, a makeover that has even emphasized her love of cats, in order to defeat her.
Her gentler demeanor has garnered her some supporters, but it has piqued the suspicions of others.
A retired engineer, Yves Maillot, claimed he voted for Macron just to counteract Le Pen. He expressed concern that her long-standing anti-EU stance may lead her to try to force France out of the EU, despite the fact that this was not in her platform.
He stated, “I don’t think she’s changed at all.” “It’s the same thing, except with cats,” says the narrator.