Marine Le Pen’s Narrow Road to Victory – POLITICO

PARIS — The relief felt by supporters of French President Emmanuel Macron when the election results were announced late Sunday was short-lived.

While the incumbent beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of presidential elections by 27.6 percent to her 23.4 percent, much could change before the second round goes head-to-head in two weeks .

While the fight is a repeat of the 2017 runoff, which then-political newcomer Macron easily won, this time Le Pen has a plan for success – although polls still suggest Macron will win re-election for a second five-year term.

Le Pen’s campaign team hopes that France’s changing political landscape – the established centre-right and centre-left parties have been virtually wiped out – and hostility towards Macron as incumbent will help lead them to the Elysée.

As Macron and Le Pen now battle to snatch the votes of their unsuccessful rivals from the first round, the far-right leader of the National Rally is hoping the so-called Cordon sanitary — where in the past voters have sometimes held their noses and voted for a candidate they didn’t support just to keep the far right from winning — potentially weakened.

According to her supporters, Le Pen also comes into this second round better prepared, with a stronger campaign and with plenty of unused votes to fall back on.

“Something happened yesterday. People realized that Macron can be beaten,” said Gilles Pennelle, a National Rally regional councillor. “We can beat Macron because another term for him would be catastrophic for the French people and because we can show that we are credible and capable of governing the country.”

According to polls by POLITICO, Le Pen won 47 percent of the votes in the April 24 runoff a survey conducted after the results of the first round Macron showed re-election by the smallest margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.

Could there be luck for Le Pen the third time?

“The poll now doesn’t mean people are going to vote like this 15 days from now,” said Jean-Daniel Lévy, pollster at Harris Interactive. “There is a second round of campaigning ahead, a televised debate. Things are about to change.”

Le Pen’s early bets

Le Pen has made several risky decisions that she hopes will now bear fruit as she confronts Macron.

That Cordon sanitary could prove less of a hindrance as Le Pen has worked hard in recent years to detoxify the National Rally brand, abandoning unpopular positions like a “Frexit” from the European Union and the euro currency and making them more mainstream .

And she went further. In the run-up to the elections, she prioritized immigration and security, instead championing budgetary problems for ordinary French citizens. To increase her appeal, she has proposed lowering the income tax for young adults and lowering VAT on fuel and basic groceries.

This could help win votes from the left, whose candidates were all eliminated in the first round. The race for the presidency could depend on what voters decide on the second round of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who ranks third with 22 percent on Sunday. Mélenchon urged his followers not to support Le Pen, but many say they are undecided and 18 percent of its voters said they could vote for her.

In a speech on Sunday, Le Pen echoed the rhetoric of the left, presenting herself as a champion of the oppressed, a politician who defends the people against “the power of money” and fights for “solidarity” and the right to “healthy retirement”. .”

According to pollster Lévy, Le Pen has broadened her appeal and is able to attract new voters from the right, left and those who abstained in the first round. Much could depend on the televised debate between the two candidates, scheduled for April 20. Five years ago, Le Pen was widely judged second best in a bloody televised duel.

“The French aren’t as concerned about Le Pen as they used to be … because when she speaks, people understand what she means,” he said. “She was also the first to speak about purchasing power and that helped normalize her and bring her into the national debate.”

Le Pen’s team will also hope that left-wing voters will be put off by Macron’s continued designation as the “president of the rich” and his plans to raise the retirement age.

silver lining

A key change in Le Pen’s favor from previous elections was the arrival of Eric Zemmour, a hot-headed candidate who caused controversy in the presidential election and garnered 7.1 percent of the vote on Sunday.

The former journalist’s candidacy and his campaigning on the core issues of Le Pen’s party, namely law and order and immigration, helped her move from the far-right fringes to the center.

His disappointing result can now be an asset to Le Pen as it shakes up voters who may have been discouraged by the National Rally’s mainstream action. On Sunday, Zemmour urged his supporters to vote for Le Pen on the second ballot.

On Monday, Louis Aliot, the mayor of the National Assembly of Perpignan, welcomed Zemmour’s move but kept his distance between the two far-right rivals.

“Eric Zemmour is calling on voters to vote for Marine Le Pen, that’s great,” he told French radio France info. “[But] We are talking to voters, there will be no deal with Zemmour.”

For the National Rally, this is the best of both worlds: getting his votes but keeping him at bay as his inflammatory comments about French identity risk alienating voters on the left.

Le Pen’s strategy gives Macron pause as he, too, hopes to persuade left-wing voters to rally behind him. Is he now also committed to social justice and fighting to protect the weak in France? Or does he appeal to their consciences by portraying the extreme right as excessive and risking accusations of scaremongering?

On Monday, Macron showed that he is not dodging the issue. Macron visited one of France’s poorest cities at the National Assembly playground in the Hauts-de-France and told reporters he was there to promote his welfare proposals. He also acknowledged that the Cordon sanitary no longer existed.

So, can Le Pen become President of France? “Not only can she, she must,” said her father Jean-Marie Le Pen BFMTV. Marine Le Pen's Narrow Road to Victory - POLITICO

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