The choice of the French | The Journal of Montreal

Our columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté is currently staying in France, from where he observes French news from a Quebec perspective.

The French go to the polls today, for the first round of the presidential election. Among the twelve candidates present, they will decide which ones will face each other in the second round, in two weeks.

If the trend continues, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will face each other.

As in 2017. Except this time, if the polls are not wrong, the result could be different.

Because we openly consider the possible victory of Marine Le Pen.


What happened ?

You have to go back seven months ago to understand how we got there, when the candidacy of journalist and writer Éric Zemmour came to hit the presidential campaign. Very quickly, he took off in the polls by talking about French identity and campaigning against mass immigration.

We imagined it in the second round of the presidential election. Until February, moreover, it seemed very possible.

But from the start, the system reacted violently to her candidacy by caricaturing her, by demonizing her. It must be said that he escaped his own campaign a few times and ended up paying the price, in particular because of what many saw as complacency for Putin’s Russia.

In the end, many consider that his candidacy will have served that of Marine Le Pen by normalizing it.

Zemmour became the foil; Marine, the legitimate figure of the national opposition, with a strong base in the working classes and a campaign centered on the question of purchasing power.

Through this, the traditional political system continued to disintegrate.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron sucked up and siphoned off the Socialist Party. For five years, he has sucked up and siphoned off the Les Républicains party, associated with the classic right, whose candidate, Valérie Pécresse, risks collapse.

Emmanuel Macron thought he was heading for an easy re-election, especially since the Ukrainian crisis has reinforced his image as head of state. But the situation seems to escape him. His campaign was bad. Distant.

And we can see the existence of a real anti-Macron feeling in the country: according to a recent poll, seven out of ten French people do not want his re-election. His re-election, let us not forget, nevertheless remains highly probable.

A word on Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of the radical left. This powerful speaker could make it to the second round. Admittedly, no one imagines him triumphing over Emmanuel Macron, but many people on the left would see it as a victory to prevent Marine Le Pen from reaching the second round.

The pen

But we come back to it: Marine Le Pen will most likely be in the second round. And she can win. Which doesn’t mean she’ll win.

How will the political class react to this possibility? The strategy usually used is that of the “Republican Front”. It is then a question of repeating the term “extreme right” for hours and hours until losing your voice to block it.

We will see there a proven technique of terror, often allowing to destroy the candidatures considered “extremist”. Certainly, it still works among the political and media elites. But does it still work in the population? Is it now enough to stick this dirty label on a candidate to execute him politically?

The second round will be boosted.

Should we believe the polls?


Some candidates dream of making the polls lie. Among them, Éric Zemmour, who says he is underestimated in the polls. His arguments: the polls were wrong in 2016, both with Brexit and with Trump. He adds that his campaign is sparking real passion on the ground. Could all this be illusory? He also accuses the polls of pushing voters to turn away from him, giving the advantage of the useful vote to Marine Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen: daughter of her father?

Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the historic leader of the National Front, to whom she succeeded. The man has been a central figure in French political life for nearly sixty years. He was the main foil in the history of the Fifth Republic. His daughter, several years ago, broke with him politically, especially on everything related to history. To what extent will the French judge her from her father?

The risk of abstention

A great fear haunts Marine Le Pen: will the abstention rate be high? She fears it, because if that is the case, as several analysts fear, it will particularly hit the working classes, where a good part of her electorate is. She could then pay the price. Conversely, the electorates of Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Éric Zemmour generally belong to more politicized categories of the population.

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