Five years ago, French analysts ruled out the possibility of Marin Le Pen being elected president. This is no longer the case.
How did you get here and what are the risks of her possible victory?
Five years ago, while international observers feared that Marin Le Pen could be elected president of France, French analysts unanimously and unequivocally rejected such a scenario.
This time, experts conciliatory acknowledge that the far-right Le Pen could win. Sociological research predicts extremely close results for the two contenders in the second round.
Why did all this happen?
The research predicted a sure victory for Macron with a comfortable lead, especially after Russia invaded Ukraine and the French united around their leader.
This effect weakened quickly. After the West imposed sanctions on Russia, prices in France rose even more. This heightened the main concern: how to connect the two ends?
Le Pen seems to have found a way to take advantage of the situation. For months, she toured small villages, towns, and markets, posing as a candidate close to the people. She promised that if elected, she would keep the prices of basic goods and reduce VAT on fuels and energy.
Le Pen is the moderate candidate on the far right
Macron waited until the last moment to join the campaign. He seemed too busy trying to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin. His campaign was limited to a few small meetings and a larger one. Voters were left with the impression that their president did not seem interested in their daily lives and was overconfident in his success.
In addition, someone else inadvertently helped Le Pen. This was the far-right political journalist, and later presidential candidate, Eric Zemun. With his blatantly racist slogans, he stood out as even more extreme than Le Pen.
This propelled him up for a while in the research, even over Le Pen herself. After that, however, his rating plummeted, not least because he was hesitant to support the reception of Ukrainian refugees and maintained a vague attitude toward Putin, whom he had admired in the past.
It is strange that despite Le Pen’s closeness to Putin in the past and the financial support she has received from Russia, her campaign has not stalled. On the contrary, she even strengthened her position. Zemur’s harsh remarks slowly but surely established her as a moderate candidate on the far right.
Le Pen wants to legalize discrimination
But make no mistake. The platform of the 53-year-old candidate is still heavily influenced by the spirit of the party’s co-founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been repeatedly convicted of belittling the Holocaust and inciting racial hatred.
If he becomes president, Le Pen will hold a referendum to register the so-called principle of national priority in the French constitution. Through it, people with French citizenship would have an advantage over foreigners on issues such as access to work, housing, and health care. In this way, discrimination will be legalized in practice.
As president, she plans to criminalize aid to illegal migrants entering and staying in France. It will limit the right to protection and would not hesitate to return foreigners to countries where they face prosecution or death. And although it no longer mentions Frexit directly in its program (France’s exit from the EU), these reforms would in practice lead to such a development. It fits into her anti-globalist vision, her plan to control French borders and strengthen economic protectionism.
Macron: pro-European, but far from perfect
While this is in stark contrast to Macron’s pro-European, integrationist stance, it is far from perfect. The French criticize him for his market-oriented reforms that benefit the business. Thus he earned the nickname “President of the Rich”. Macron has already announced that if re-elected, he will increase the retirement age and force recipients of social benefits to work or study.
Meanwhile, environmental groups have criticized the president for failing to cope with climate change. Women’s rights groups have accused him of not doing enough for gender equality.
However, under Macron’s rule, unemployment fell and the economy developed relatively well. This is also thanks to the billions of euros spent by the government to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Although he promises to limit immigration, he is planning new laws against discrimination against foreigners when applying for a job and receiving housing.
There is a serious threat to French democracy
But the weight of the criticism of Macron cannot be weighed against the threat to the foundations of French democracy that would create a victory for Le Pen.
The only way to protect the country from totalitarianism is to prevent it from coming to power. Before making their choice in two weeks, French voters must ask themselves how much they value democracy.
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