Sunday, April 30, 2017

Don't be surprised if Le Pen wins on May 7

Marine Le Pen (Photo: CNBC)
Today, it's a week since the first round of French elections took place. Very much like what the opinion polls predicted, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen came on top.

Today, it's one week to go for the second and final round. After many years, we have a very tightly contested race for the next occupant of Palais de l'Élysée (Elysee Palace), the official residence of the President of France.

It's widely speculated that Macron will defeat Le Pen. But as the poll date nears, there are increasing indications that it will not be a cake walk for him. An Odoxa survey, a few days ago showed that the gap between the two had narrowed, and Macron's share of vote could be 59%, down four points. Marine Le Pen stands at 41%, up four points from earlier in the week.

Another poll by Harris Interactive, said that Macron will win: 61% to 39%. But he has lost ground in the past week to Le Pen: six percentage points.

Why the going might be difficult for Macron

On May 23rd, Le Pen got just 5% votes in Paris, but in five adjoining regions -- Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Normandie, Centre-Val de Loire and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté -- she was the winner.
Emmanuel Macron (Photo: New Statesman)

There is a lot of support for far right views among the youth. The flood of immigrants and the changes that is bringing about in the society isn't to everyone's liking. Extreme right is seeking exit of not just refugees but even people of non-European and sometimes even non-French origin. Le Pen's FN party is no longer extreme right-wing, but many who are right and beyond are likely to back Le Pen rather than Macron.

She has support from not just youth of 18 to 24 years, but also among the working class and lower middle class. And these are not demographic bands that get widely represented in urban media. A good example of this was when she engineered a publicity coup by meeting striking workers of the Whirlpool factory at the picket gate of their factory in Amiens, while Macron was holding talks with union officials in the comforts of the building. The factory is facing closure after a number of jobs were outsourced to Poland. She said she will not let the factory close.

There is massive unemployment. It's around 10%. While it is 4% in Germany, and 5% in the UK. And this has been agitating the youth. In Round 1 on April 23, she won in areas that had high unemployment and low wages.

Similarity to Trump

There is an unmistakable similarity to what played out in the US in the runup to the November poll in the US. Everyone predicted Hillary will win, but Trump kept gaining steadily in opinion polls, which the media largely didn't take seriously. Le Pen too is gaining steadily.

Trump appealed to a vast number of blue-collar workers. So is Le Pen. And that is a good number in France too.

Many people think Macron will be indecisive in these times when tough decisions would have to be taken. They think he would just be another of those business-class elite would just go with the not-too-well-working system.

And now we have reports that Russian hackers have broken into Macron's campaign, much like what we heard about the Democratic campaign in the US.

The quiet voters

What might prove crucial is how supporters of left and far-left would vote. Its leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon who secured 19% votes last week, hasn't endorsed Macron. May 7 result will be affected if many his supporters decide to support Le Pen or even abstain, without voting for either.

Macron may have won Round 1, and all parties (except the Socialists) might be uniting behind him to prevent FN from coming to power. But does that imply that people too would unite similarly?

In other words, many voters who might theoretically be against Le Pen could support her. But since that's going to be "very politically incorrect" for them, they might not talk about it.

How ironic it would be, if most of Left abstains, and that catapults Marine Le Pen to Palais de l'Élysée.


References:

All the ways Emmanuel Macron could still lose the French election - Quartz, April 28, 2017

Le Pen GAINS ground as Macron support drops ahead of final vote -  Sunday Express,  Apr 28, 2017

Marine Le Pen closes the gap with Emmanuel Macron - Daily Mail, April 28, 2017

Macron heckled by pro-Le Pen workers - BBC, 26 April 2017

'Death of the French left': why voters are hesitating over MacronThe Guardian, 26 April 2017

Russian hackers 'target' presidential candidate Macron - BBC, 25 April 2017

Marine Le Pen wins just 5% of Paris vote while rural FN support surges - Independent, April 24, 2017

How the Election Split France - New York Times, April 23, 2017

'The real misery is in the countryside': support for Le Pen surges in rural France - The Guardian, April 21, 2017

Why does Le Pen get so much support from young voters? - Al Jazeera, April 20, 2017

Marine Le Pen’s surprise supporters - Politico, Jan 23, 2017

France unemployment rate - Countryeconomy.com

4 comments:

  1. Excellent write up. So you are saying the gas station attendant in Lyon might vote for Le Pen. Will wait and see.

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  2. Flash news: Macron declared winner.

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  3. Yes... Looks like many gas station attendants either didn't vote at all, or voted for Macron. Amazing victory for the leader of a party that is just one year old.

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  4. I wonder if he is the Monsieur Kejriwal of France.

    ReplyDelete