France faces elections this Sunday that will mark its political future -and to a large extent that of Europe- for the next few years. It will be the first stop in a broader electoral process that comes preceded by an unprecedented rise of the extreme right and the military offensive launched by Russia on Ukraine at the end of February.
The first round of the presidential elections faces the current tenant of the Elysee, Emmanuel Macron, with a list of more than a dozen candidates. In this group, three candidates from the right of the political spectrum stand out -Marine Le Pen (National Group), Éric Zemmour (Reconquest) and Valérie Pecresse (The Republicans)- and, to a lesser extent, a leftist -Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Francia Insumisa )-.
Macron He is no longer the newcomer who in 2017 blew up the traditional parties with a newly minted movement, La República en Marcha, which would eventually end up dominating the parliamentary arena as well. Now It is presented with the endorsement of the five years that have elapsed and with the message that there are still things to doeven establishing itself as a leader within the EU.
The announcement of his candidacy, in fact, was delayed first by the covid pandemic and then by the start of the war in Ukraine, in such a way that it did not arrive until a few hours before the deadline. His clear messages against Moscow and his mediation efforts seem to have pleased a large part of the electorate, a kind of ‘flag effect’ that draws voters to side with the leader in times of crisis.
The extreme right, protagonist
The polls place him as the favorite, but the French electoral system does not allow anything to be taken for granted. Thus, except for surprises, Macron will prevail in the first round, since he has a intention to vote consolidated above even 25%but it remains to be seen who will join him on the ballot two weeks later, on April 24.
Le Penwho already achieved the long-awaited face-to-face with Macron in the 2017 elections, is ‘a priori’ the best positioned candidate. Nor is he a newcomer and he has suggested that this will be his last attempt to reach the Elysee, for which he hopes to take advantage of an electorate apparently more inclined to right-wing positions and a blurred left threatened by abstention.
Once radical positions such as leaving the EU and the euro were abandoned, your main challenge when it comes to improving its image in recent months has consisted of get rid of the shadow of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has gone from his self-confessed ally to the elephant in the room. Rally National destroyed thousands of flyers for an image of Le Pen and Putin together, shaking hands.
Le Pen has established itself in the polls as the second optionn after an initial phase in which it was directly affected by Hurricane Zemmour. This journalist hardened in social gatherings to the blow of controversy aspires to govern with a program even more tilted to the right than that of Le Pen, which has even contributed to soften the image of the latter.
the other candidates
The list of presidential candidates also includes the name of Valerie Pecressepresident of the Ile-de-France region and winner of a primary process with which the Republicans managed to mobilize a center-right that went from governing the country until 2012 to a journey through the desert that it has managed to bear due to the weight that still holds at regional and local level.
Pecresse has lost some steam in this final stretch of the campaignbut the polls see her as a candidate with viable options to defeat Macron if she goes to the second round, given that the current president could not argue that he is the option of the State against hypothetical more radical rivals such as Le Pen or Zemmour.
Mélenchon, for his part, is once again running for president with the aim of causing a surprise and drag the useful vote of the French left. Not surprisingly, he is the favorite candidate of this political spectrum in the polls, in which the mayor of Paris, the socialist Anne Hidalgo, appears with meager percentages.