French President Emmanuel Macron improved on his 2017 score in Sunday’s first round of the presidential election. But he goes into the April 24 run-off with a starkly diminished reservoir of votes in what large swaths of the country have come to see as a choice of “the lesser of two evils”.
Macron trounced the same far-right candidate in a lopsided contest five years ago, but polls are pointing to a much closer race this time amid widespread dismay at a rematch voters have long said they didn’t want.
Following the first round, Macron is on course to beat Le Pen by 54% to 46%, according to a projection by pollsters Ipsos-Sopra Steria for FRANCE 24. Other polls have suggested the gap could be as narrow as two percentage points. In any case, Macron is polling well below the 66% he won in 2017 against the very same opponent.
In Sunday’s first round, the incumbent president trailed Le Pen in every age category except the over-65s, who voted massively in his favour. Without their support, he wouldn’t even be in the run-off. But the inability to generate enthusiasm among younger voters is just one of Macron’s problems after five troubled years in office and a lacklustre campaign overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.
“Macron’s reservoir of votes is extremely weak,” said Martial Foucault, head of the Cevipof institute in Paris, noting that rivals from the mainstream whose supporters are most likely to rally behind him have been all but wiped off the political map.
“The scores of the Socialist Party (1.7%) and Les Républicains (4.8%) suggest many of their supporters already voted tactically in the first round. And the more ‘Macron-compatible’ among them gave their votes to the incumbent,” Foucault told FRANCE 24. While Macron can also count on the support of voters who backed the Greens’ Yannick Jadot (4.6%) and the Communists’ Fabien Roussel (2.3%), “we’re talking about a very limited pool of voters”, Foucault added.
At the other end of the spectrum, Le Pen can reasonably expect to pick up most of the 7.1% of voters who backed her far-right rival Éric Zemmour and the 2.1% who went for nationalist right-winger Nicolas Dupont-Aignan – with both candidates throwing their support behind her on Sunday night. Their combined total brings the far right’s tally to an unprecedented 32.5% – underscoring a profound shift in the French electorate and pointing to a substantial reservoir of votes for Le Pen ahead of the April 24 run-off.
Source: France 24