The most likely hypothesis for the second round of the French presidential elections, which should be held on April 24, is a repetition of the duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen from five years ago. This is indicated by all the polls, which also predict the victory of the current president in the final round. Macron’s electoral expectations, however, show a clear worsening in recent days, parallel to the improvement of Le Pen. The victory of the current tenant of the Elysee does not seem compromised, since he enjoys an advantage of close to ten points, but the trend towards convergence between the two candidates that has been observed lately is still worrying.
In any case, Macron’s advantage over Le Pen in this hypothetical second round would be clearly less than that obtained by Macron himself in 2017. So, the current president obtained two thirds of the total votes, that is, he doubled the support for those obtained by the ultra candidate. If the forecasts a month before the second round are true, Macron would obtain a significantly lower result today. The average of the polls carried out in the month of March gives the president less than 60% of the votes, while Le Pen is supposed to have a result greater than 40%. The difference between them would have gone from more than 30 points five years ago to half.
If we go back 20 years ago, when the extreme right first entered the second round of the presidential elections, surprisingly beating the socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, the then leader of the National Front, the patriarch Le Pen, obtained a minimum of 18 %, compared to a Jacques Chirac who passed 80%. The trend is more than evident: the vote for the extreme right in the final election for the presidency has gone from less than 20% to 33% and could exceed 40% in less than a month. Or what is the same, the advantage over the extreme right has gone from 60 points 20 years ago to 30 five years ago, and could end up at 15 this time.
What is this evolution due to? The survey data is overwhelming in this regard. In 2002, when Le Pen Sr. entered the second round for the first time, there was a movement of extraordinary intensity among the voters of the other parties to support Chirac and block the path of the extreme right. More than 80% of those who had voted for Jospin in the first round opted for the Conservative leader, as did 85% of center voters or 71% of voters on the left. The republican mobilization in defense of democracy was what led Chirac to exceed 80% of the votes.
In 2017, faced with a similar scenario, this time with Marine Le Pen in the second round, this Republican mobilization among the voters of the candidates eliminated in the first round was more nuanced. Among the Socialists, the vote for Macron was ten points lower than the vote for Chirac and 25 points lower among the electorate of the leftist Mélenchon. Of the conservative vote, only half supported Macron.
This time the data is even worse. Among those who show intention to vote for Mélenchon in the first round, only 30% will support Macron in the second. Among the voters of Anne Hidalgo only two thirds and 46% among those who will vote for the conservative Pécresse. The majority of the rest will opt for abstention. This is stated by almost half of Mélenchon’s voters, by a quarter of the Socialists and the Conservatives. Hence, Macron’s advantage today is half what it was five years ago.
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The data shows that it is not that there has been a significant transfer of support towards the extreme right (although in part yes), but that there has been a relaxation in that Republican majority that was capable of giving its vote to a candidate very far from their postulates with the sole purpose not so much of preventing the victory of the extreme right, but also of sending the message that the French electorate was not willing to accept that the participation of the ultras was normalized.
Today, that democratic reaction, that republican mobilization, no longer occurs, which is an indicator of the degree of normalization that the presence of the extreme right has acquired, while also telling us something about the effects of polarization , which prevents voters from lend to other forces to pursue an end that is understood to go beyond the strict partisan divide.
France is sending a message and its echo resounds beyond its borders. Attention.
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