“The far right has never been so close to victory”
On Sunday, April 24, the second round of the presidential elections in France will take place, in which the incumbent head of state Emmanuel Macron will meet his far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Although the polls predict a Macron victory, the leader of the National Association is not going to give up without a fight. And the narrow gap between the candidates, and even the illusory prospect of Le Pen's success, causes the undisguised horror of the liberal elites in the West.
For Marine Le Pen, the current elections are an attempt to arrange a rematch for the defeat inflicted on her in the second round of voting in 2017 by Macron, who jumped out of a snuff box like a rookie in big politics at that moment . The winner won that race by almost two votes to one. And while the candidates remain the same, the 2022 fight promises to be very different, notes CNN.
Compared to the election five years ago, both Macron and Le Pen have increased their combined share of the vote in the first round this year, but polls taken ahead of the first round on April 10 showed that Le Pen received a surge of support in March.
The Ifop-Fiducial poll published on April 10 suggests that Macron will win in the second round of the competition with only 51% against 49% for Le Pen. However, it is difficult to predict what will happen on Election Day itself.
Political scientists often say that the French vote with their hearts in the first round and then vote with their heads in the second – which means they choose their ideal candidate first and then choose the lesser of two evils in the second round, CNN tells CNN. To win re-election, Macron will likely need to convince supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the first round with 22 percent of the vote, to support him. Melenchon himself, after it became obvious that he was not going to the final, told his supporters that “we should not give a single vote to Madame Le Pen”, but at the same time he did not explicitly support Macron.
However, most of the losing candidates urged their supporters to support Macron in order to prevent the far right from winning the presidential election. And only right-wing candidate Eric Zemmour urged his electorate to support Le Pen.
The presidential elections in the Fifth Republic are closely watched not only by the people of France, but also by numerous politicians and experts outside of it. Some are hopeful, others are worried. “The far right has never been so close to victory,” said Valerie Pekress, the losing center-right Republican candidate, with a bang.
The fact that the far-right National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen is once again in the finals of the presidential race is, to put it mildly, a matter of grave concern for many in the West. In this, in the words of one of the materials of the American channel CNN, they see “a new wave of extreme populism, fueled by economic tension, hostility to immigrants and a culture war that challenges key democracies from within.” Well, the external factor, of course, is called Russia (where would it be without it!), which “intensifies the most brutal attack on the liberal Western order in recent decades.”
Marine Le Pen's popularity is part of a trend in which, in France, the US, Hungary and elsewhere, the center seems to be leaving politics and moderates are giving way to radicals on the right and left amid widespread public discontent. after the two-year COVID-19 pandemic, when governments significantly curtailed personal freedoms.
Pascal Lamy, chief of staff of former European Commission President Jacques Delors, predicted that Le Pen's victory would be a major shock on a larger scale “than Trump was for the United States or Brexit for the UK” and her “sovereignist, protectionist, nationalist” agenda” completely contradicts France's commitment to European integration” and includes “proposals that completely violate the treaties to which France has joined.”
In this context, the liberal channel CNN predicts Emmanuel Macron – “the embodiment of technocratic elitism” – a tough fight “for to quell the momentum of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic and pro-Putin far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.”
Ms. Le Pen's earlier expressions of sympathy for the Russian president are now being used against her – even despite the fact that after the start of the military operation in Ukraine, the candidate from the “National Association” hastened to criticize the Kremlin.
And yet, ahead of the second round, Marine Le Pen promises that – if elected – after the end of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, she will offer closer ties between NATO and Russia and remove France from the military command of the US-led alliance. .
“I will call for a strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia,” she said at a press conference.
The far-right candidate is blamed by political opponents for borrowing 9 million euros from a Russian-Czech bank in 2014 for Le Pen's party, then called the National Front (and then renamed the National Rally), to run local election campaigns. and is still making payments. Le Pen said that any talk that she was betraying the interests of France or that she was indebted to Putin was “inaccurate and especially unfair.”
Declaring her independence from any foreign state, Le During the presidential race, Pen focuses on the internal cost of anti-Russian sanctions for the French themselves, on inflation and the cost of fuel and electricity, on the crisis in living standards.
The other day at a press conference, Marine Le Pen said: “I have always defended only the interests of France.” And she hit back at her opponent, recalling that her approach is very similar to that of Macron, who established a personal relationship with Putin and maintained a dialogue with him, inviting him to the Palace of Versailles and his summer residence on the Mediterranean Sea.
Le Pen said better ties with Russia would prevent Moscow from getting too close to China, noting that she was echoing an argument made by Macron in the past.
In her defense, Le Pen said: “I would not place our troops under either a joint NATO command or a future European command,” adding that she would renounce any “subordination to an American protectorate.”
Le Pen promised that France, if elected, will leave the joint NATO command structure, withdrawing troops and weapons from common control.
Positioning himself as a pro-European politician, Emmanuel Macron criticizes Le Pen for nationalism and friendship with right-wing leaders. In turn, Le Pen demonstrates the ability to evolve her views – her views on Europe have noticeably adjusted compared to the 2017 elections, when she insisted on France's exit from the EU and the euro area. In the 2017 elections, fear of the economic consequences of a potential French exit from the European Union, especially among older voters worried about their savings, is widely believed to have contributed to Marine Le Pen's heavy runoff defeat by the pro-European Emmanuel Macron.
The French far-right candidate no longer dismisses the EU, but calls for “renovating the common European home.” Because, as it exists today, as Le Pen said earlier this year, the European Union exemplifies “disregard for peoples and dominance over nations,” an “intrusive and authoritarian” bloc locked in a “globalist ideology of open borders” that “destroyed our identity.”
Le Pen's European vision now is to create a “union of nations… respectful of peoples, history and national sovereignty” whose members could “prioritize their own businesses for government contracts” and “re-establish constant checks” on their borders.
Be that as it may, this time the EU does not even appear among the top topics of Le Pen's election program. Now Marine Le Pen assures that she does not need Frexit, but a freer version of the European Union. “No one is against Europe,” she says. “I will not stop paying France's contribution to the EU, I want to reduce it.”
But at the same time, the politician points out that Brexit was a great success for the UK, and the French “ruling political class” turned out to be wrong after predicting a catastrophe for the British: “The British got rid of the Brussels bureaucracy that they could never bear to go to the ambitious project of a global Britain.” But she added: “This is not our project. We want to reform the EU from within.”
Macron has no choice but to say that the changes proposed by his rivals in treaties, the dismantling of rules and the reduction of budgetary contributions will mean that France will be effectively ousted from the EU. but the name” and suspected the leader of the “National Rally” of destroying the EU from within, which, according to them, poses “a much greater threat to the status quo of the EU than Brexit.”
“She wants to leave, but she doesn’t dare to say so,” Macron said, accusing his opponent of wanting a special alliance with right-wing populists in Hungary and Poland. Le Pen took out a loan from a Hungarian bank for the campaign and told a press conference that French banks had denied her a loan.
Key to Le Pen's plans, her opponents cite plans for an early referendum on a proposed “citizenship, identity and immigration” law that would amend the constitution to allow “national priority” for French citizens in employment, social security benefits and public housing. . This measure in the camp of Le Pen's opponents is called incompatible with the values of the European Union and the rules of free movement.
The same referendum promoted by Lepin's “National Rally” is intended to establish “the primacy of national law over European law” in order to allow France “not only to control immigration, but in all other areas to reconcile their European obligations with the preservation of their national sovereignty and the protection of their interests.”
Le Pen's goal is to give France the opportunity to benefit from Europe “on the menu” – choosing from what she likes and does not like in EU law.
“Once you assert the rule of national law, you don't have European law. Marine Le Pen has refused to officially withdraw, but her program is incompatible with the preservation of France's membership in the EU,” Jean-Louis Bourlange, a centrist MP and chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the French parliament, is indignant.
The fury of political rivals causes and Le Pen's desire to restore border controls (which is seen as a violation of EU and Schengen rules) and unilaterally reduce France's contribution to the EU budget. EU legal experts note that even holding a referendum on the primacy of national legislation will be a violation of European treaties.
However, in order for the concerns of Marine Le Pen's opponents about the future of France and Europe to acquire solid ground, frightening the liberal elite, the woman politician still it is necessary to make an almost impossible effort – and defeat Macron.