N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
In France, the political earthquake of 2017 continues. Emmanuel Macron is doing well with the ‘couche superieure’ of the French society; Marine Le Pen can count on the votes of ‘la France d’en bas’.
The outgoing president is especially strong in the west of France, in Brittany, the Loire region and the wealthier western part of Ile-de-France. He continues to do particularly well in larger cities.
Marine Le Pen received almost half a million votes more than in 2017 and remains the champion of rural France. She scored strongly in the north and east of France, in the centre and in the south along the Mediterranean. The French areas that benefit less from globalisation and see migration from Muslim countries often as an existential threat.
A long time Marine Le Pen was considered ineligible, but recent polls show that Macron has a strong rival in her and must be deeply concerned for the second round of the French presidential elections on April 24.
After het defeat to Macron in 2017, Le Pen decided to learn lessons from what went wrong and that she had to work on her image and that of her party. That is why she changed the name of the party in 2018, much to the chagrin of her father Jean-Marie. The National Front gave way to the Rassemblement National.
She succeeded in ‘softening’ her image as well. In a poll by Ipsos at the end of March, 29 percent called her sympathetic. By comparison, 31 percent thought that of Macron.
Polls after the first round brought Le Pen close to 44 percent in the new duel against Macron in the second round. Whilst Macron was preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, she was able to profile herself as the only politician who knows what is really going on among the French.
Macron must be careful not to suffer the same fate as US President George Bush in 1992, who campaigned on his foreign policy after the Gulf War. He lost from Bill Clinton, who had campaigned under the slogan ‘It’s the economy, stupid’…