President Emmanuel Macron’s lead in polls over his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, narrows in the final stretch of the French presidential election campaign. The distance between the two has gone from 16 points in favor of Macron at the beginning of March, after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to five points now, according to the survey published this Wednesday Le Monde.
The centrist Macron would prevail in the first round this Sunday with 26.5% of the vote, and Le Pen would be second with 21.5%, according to the aforementioned poll, carried out by Ipsos-Sopra Steria with 12,600 people and with a margin of error between 0.2% and 0.9%. A month ago, with the start of the war, the expected vote for Macron had shot up to 30.5%, while Le Pen was at 14.5%.
With four days to go before the vote, there are nerves in the macronista camp, despite the unanimity in the polls about his character as the favorite. And on the Lepenist side a wind of hope is blowing.
“I think there is a real opportunity and it is possible to win this election,” Louis Aliot, leader of Le Pen’s party (National Rally), told EL PAÍS a few days ago. On Saturday, at his only big rally, Macron warned his voters: “Don’t believe the polls that say it’s impossible [la victoria de Le Pen]that it is unthinkable, that the election is already decided and that everything will be fine”.
The latest news, added to the possibility of a high abstention, fuel nervousness and uncertainty. The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office announced on Wednesday a preliminary investigation for possible money laundering and tax fraud against McKinsey, the US firm that is at the center of a controversy over the Administration’s growing use of private consultants. McKinsey, according to a Senate report, did not pay corporate tax in France between 2011 and 2020. Employees and directors of the firm participated in the Macron campaign in 2017.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a powerful candidate from the extreme left, denounces the McKinsey case and the use of external consultants: “It’s a scandal, the State pays to dismember itself.”
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Le Pen and Zemmour stir up the death of a young Jew
In parallel, Le Pen and the other candidate of the extreme right, Éric Zemmour, stir up a dramatic event: the attack on February 16 in Bobigny, on the outskirts of Paris, on Jérémie Cohen, a young Jew who ended up dying run over by a trolley car. “Why is no media outlet, no politician, no member of the government talking about the death of Jérémie Cohen, beaten by a mob?” complains Zemmour, who denounced a “state scandal”.
The death of Jérémie Cohen serves the extreme right to stir up fear of insecurity. Although for now the Prosecutor’s Office has not considered that it was an anti-Semitic aggression, the case recalls the succession of attacks against the Jewish community in France in recent years. The McKinsey case it reinforces another type of fear and ghost: that of a privatized State and that of a president in collusion with the capitalist elites and the multinationals. Neither case takes center stage in the campaign. But it’s background noise that doesn’t help the president.
The poll of Le Monde places Mélenchon in third position, with 16% of the vote. And it reflects the collapse of Zemmour, which in October reached 16% and is now fourth with 10%; and Valérie Pécresse, a candidate from the moderate right, who in December reached 17% and is now at 8.5%.
Macron and Le Pen are the favorites to qualify this April 10 for the second round on the 24th. In the second round, Macron would win with 54% of votes against Le Pen’s 46%, according to the aforementioned poll. Other polls have shown narrower margins, as low as 51.5% for Macron and 48.5% for Le Pen.
The margin between Macron and Le Pen will be narrower than in the 2017 presidential elections. In those elections, the current president won with 66% of the vote, and the far-right candidate won 34%.
Specialists warn that the polls on the second round before the first is held are premature and lead to confusion. On Sunday night, when it is known who the two qualifiers are, a new campaign will begin.