French Presidential Election – The good and the evil? Analysis of the first round results

by Thibault Richard and Angie Charbonneau

Credit: zuchero (Adobe Stock)

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are the two candidates running for the second round of the presidential election. Five years after 2017 election, French are facing the same duel over again. If the duel is the same as in the last presidential election, the political landscape, however, has profoundly changed. The Rassemblement National (RN, far-right) candidate has notably managed to normalize her image. On the other hand, the traditional parties have almost disappeared.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen: two programs in opposition

Never seen in over 40 years: for the second time in the history of the Fifth Republic, French are going to choose again for the same candidates as in 2017. Indeed, according to the final results published on Monday 11th April, 4 points separate Emmanuel Macron (27.84%) from Marine Le Pen (23.15%). The two candidates will therefore face each other for the second consecutive time on 24 April.

If security is one of the main topics of the campaign, economy is also at the centre of French people's concerns, particularly because of the drop in purchasing power. The President-candidate has pledged to cut taxes by 15 billion euros per year, half of which would benefit households and companies. Yet, since the beginning of her campaign, Marine Le Pen has claimed to be the leading candidate on this issue by promising to significantly increase the purchasing power of households by 150 to 200 euros per month.

The emergence of a third bloc: the radical left

Many of the people who voted for him gathered around the idea of a useful vote on the left to prevent Marine Le Pen to won the first round. Jean-Luc Mélenchon was therfore on the edge of winning and of reaching the second round. The LFI candidate collected more than 7.6 million votes in the first round of the presidential election.

Yet, defeated, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate for La France Insoumise (LFI, far-left) addressed a final legacy to young activists on Sunday evening: “now it's up to you” and urged them to not give “a single vote” to Marine Le Pen. He was indeed the candidate of the youth. According to the Elabe institue, the candidate of La France Insoumise, came out on top among 18-34 year olds with 32% of the votes, ahead of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, both with 23%.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon managed to capture the youth with his programme “L'Avenir En Commun”. With a programme focused on ecology, he constantly defended environmental issues: “The IPCC report announces that the level of the oceans is rising and that droughts are becoming more and more numerous”. Indeed, the exit from nuclear power, the end of pesticides and industrial breeding, and the support for wind turbines at sea are all subjects that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has constantly addressed during this campaign. As ecology is the main concern of young people, they have massively voted for him considering his program more effective than the one of Yannick Jadot (green candidate).

The end of the two traditional parties

After many years of alternating government, the traditional parties, Les Républicains (LR, right-wing party) and the Parti Socialiste (PS, left-wing party) are the big losers of this first round, even if they still have a local influence on which they can potentially rely to survive.

Indeed, in 2021, the regional elections had given the socialists hope that their party continue to exist. With 5 regions won over 13, 10 months before the presidential election, the socialist party gained trust. Some socialists, such as Julien Dray, a former tenor of the Socialist Party, are pessimists about the future of the party: “The socialist party, in its form, is finished, it is out of breath and we must do something else. I'm not calling for it to leave, but I don't believe in it, I think it no longer has the strength within it”. This year, Anne Hidalgo obtained fewer votes (1.8% of the votes) than Benoît Hamon in 2017 (6.36% of the votes) and thus marked the worst score in the history of the Socialist Party.

On the other hand, among LR members, it is also a failure. Jean Léonetti, head of the LR nomination process for the presidential elections, said: “It's not a defeat but a disaster”. With a relatively low score (4.7%) and far from her expectations, Valérie Pécresse even launched “a national appeal for donations”, adding that “the survival” of her party is at stake.

The two finalists have two weeks to convince their voters

As the two final candidates enter the last sprint before the second round of the election, each of them have set up clear strategies to win.

On one side, Emmanuel Macron is going to organise various meetings on the ground: first in the North of France, where people mostly tend to vote for the extreme parties. Then he will go to the East of France and to Le Havre, where Jean-Luc Mélenchon arrived first. This strategy is completely different from what the candidate has done in 2017, when he felt victorious right after the first round.

Another tactic of the presidential majority is to not let think that this is a fight between “the good and the evil”. Emmanuel Macron’s entourage want to confront both programs and the En Marche members are ready to counter every propositions made by Marine Le Pen. In addition, Emmanuel Macron will have to convince the left-wing voters. To this end, the President-candidate already said that he was ready to add some measures to his program in particular on ecology and purchasing power. He seems also committed to change his view on the pension reform. Yet, the efforts needed are going to be huge, as only 34% of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s voters say they would vote for Emmanuel Macron on 24th April.

Stay tuned for our analysis of the second round and do not hesitate to contact our French office if you need more information on the elections ongoing i


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