Macron and Le Pen face their visions of France and Europe in the final pulse for the Elysee

Macron’s continuity starts with an advantage over a Le Pen who, however, no longer generates so much rejection in the French electorate

MADRID, 24 Apr. (EUROPE PRESS) –

France will wake up this coming Monday already knowing if it will live another five years of Emmanuel Macron in the Elysee or will have, for the first time, a person from the extreme right at the controls of the country. The second round of the presidential elections pits Macron — already a moderate vision of France and Europe — against a Marine Le Pen who, by shaping image and discourse, aspires to win support even among disenchanted leftists.

Both candidates already lived a first face to face in the presidential elections of 2017. Then, Macron obtained 66 percent of the votes and Le Pen had to settle for less than 34 percent, but the political, economic and social scenario of that time It is not the same as it is now, neither inside nor outside the French borders.

Macron asserted his status as favorite in the first round on April 10 and won more than 27 percent of the vote, more than four points above his direct rival. This first rehearsal served to show that the leader of the National Association has loyal voters, as it has been demonstrating in the last major electoral events.

The polls now show an advantage of about ten percentage points for Macron for this second round, something that, if confirmed, would already mean for Le Pen to improve his 2017 result, but both the president and his team have made an effort in these last two weeks to leave Of course, nothing can be taken for granted.

They fear the ghost of electoral demobilization and that the fact that practically all the candidates defeated in the first round -and European leaders such as the Spanish Pedro Sánchez- have asked for the vote for Macron is not enough. Only Éric Zemmour has backed Le Pen, while the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon has urged not to vote for the extreme right or to abstain, in an ambiguous position.

TWO CANDIDATES WITH TWO PROFILES

Macron does not want to be a one-term president like his immediate predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, and for this he has tried to present himself as a solvent ruler, a guarantee of stability who, apart from his liberal and center-right leanings, can please a wide range of the electorate.

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It’s no longer the novelty of five years ago, but the founder of The Republic on the Move (LREM) has tried to make this experience primarily his main trump card. Faced with those who accuse him of being an elitist, he has reinforced an image of closeness, with impromptu conversations with citizens at campaign events and casual official photographs.

Le Pen, for her part, defines herself as a “patriot” in the face of traditional politicians who, in her opinion, have failed the country for decades. He includes Macron within this elite while trying to present a friendlier image than the one in his day associated with his father, founder of the National Front and promoter of the modern political far right in France.

One of Macron’s main challenges, evidenced in Wednesday’s televised debate, has been to expose the seams of Le Pen’s speech and emphasize his far-right ideology without demonizing it or appearing arrogant, an adjective that has been attributed to him over and over again by his political rivals.

Analysts and the media agree that the president emerged the winner of the debate, in which Le Pen, however, was not as cornered as in 2017 –she herself has recognized that the debate at that time is the biggest mistake of her political career– . Macron triumphed, but by no means did he knock out his opponent.

THE SHADOW OF PUTIN

Some 48 million French people are called to the polls, in a process that starts on Saturday for the overseas territories and that will end at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, when most of the polling stations will close and the first polls will begin to be disseminated. foot of the ballot box and official results.

That same night the winner of a race that has been punctuated by all kinds of setbacks will be known, in which the military offensive launched by Russia on Ukraine has ended up permeating everything, from Macron’s calendar to making his candidacy official to the messages that one and the other candidate have thrown at each other.

Not surprisingly, Le Pen has gone from bragging about her closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin to trying to make him disappear — her party removed thousands of leaflets with a photo of the two of them together — and condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Macron, who has improved in the polls after becoming fully involved in the Ukrainian crisis, has repeatedly brought up Le Pen’s Russophile past.

The leader of the LREM, for his part, has as his main burden the wear and tear of having dealt with five years in power in which he has experienced a social protest unprecedented in the recent history of France, that of the ‘yellow vests’, and a pandemic, that of COVID-19, which has tested the stability of governments and their ability to respond in much of the world.

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Macron claims that he still has work to do and faces this second round with new promises under his arm, including raising the retirement age, favoring energy independence or toughening asylum policies, in an amalgam of measures with which he trusts new to fishing votes left and right of the political spectrum.

The president also aspires that his image and that of France transcend borders, for which he continues to claim himself as a pro-European leader and a faithful ally within NATO. Le Pen, who no longer rejects the EU or the euro outright, instead opts for a “Europe of nations” and for removing France from NATO’s Allied Command.

His airy patriotism goes internally through economic protectionism and, socially, by putting a stop to the arrival of immigrants and restricting the use of the Islamic veil in public spaces. His role models include former US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

AND AFTER THAT?

This Sunday’s appointment will be key in a year in which France will renew its main institutions and will have what Mélenchon has come to call the “third round” in June. Legislative elections will be held, marked by what happens in the presidential elections.

If the current tenant of the Elysee loses in the second round, the debate that is already circulating about the chances of survival of the movement that he founded, about whether there can be a ‘macronismo’ without Macron, will be brought forward. If he wins, he would rack up at least two terms, closing in on names like Jacques Chirac, François Mitterrand and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

For Le Pen, a defeat could be definitive if she really does what she said in a recent interview, in which she announced that, “theoretically”, she would not stand for election again. However, neither his current political weight nor his age (53 years) allow ruling out that he will repeat in search of the final assault on the Elysee.

What does seem clear at this point is that the traditional parties will have to reinvent themselves if they want to survive in the new France. The Republicans (former Union for a Popular Movement) and the Socialist Party, the two formations that had been disputing power, did not add even 7 percent of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections.

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