Emmanuel Macron, the centrist outsider who formed his own party En Marche! only a year ago, has won Round 1 of the French Presidential Election. He has beaten far-right Marine Le Pen in the first stage, which begs the question now — does she stand a chance for Round 2?
For many horrified onlookers, it looked like Le Pen was set to win the first round with a comfortable majority. Despite a dip in some opinion polls earlier this month, her charisma and ability to appeal was set to win over France’s rust belt and beyond.
Not to do her a disservice, this is exactly what happened. Evidently, in the northern and north-eastern provinces there was a Trumpite desire for Le Pen to rescue the socio-economic situation of France’s forgotten working class.
Her victory however, was not at the level as some had hoped and others feared. She managed to gain an impressive 21.53 per cent of the overall vote, a considerable gain from her 17.9 per cent in 2012. Going into the second round, it looks increasingly unlikely that she will win.
Le Pen has a core base, a disenfranchised working class whom she addresses directly. Frankly, they were always going to vote for her and will continue to do so in the run-off on May 7.
Beyond this, her appeal is in doubt.
Macron won an impressive 23.75 per cent, something he never thought achievable after quitting the Socialists a matter of years ago. With his politics being in the centre, he has the ability to appeal to a far more general audience than Le Pen does. Had it been far-left Mélenchon vs Le Pen for example, the odds may have turned out slightly differently.
This does not mean Macron is certain to be the next French President. Mélenchon’s followers agree with Le Pen on many issues such as the EU and socio-economic reform. With the right rhetoric, and the fact that he refused to advise his voters to back Macron, Le Pen could easily steal a percentage of Mélenchon’s base.
Similarly, as both parties are on the right, Le Pen’s Front National could also see a boost from Republican voters, despite Fillon advising his supporters to back Macron.
Still, Le Pen’s controversial character and somewhat villainous presence in the European Parliament will probably secure her into 2nd place rather than ahead of Macron.
Complacency is the last thing needed from the French people however. If you are a leftist voter refusing to vote for Macron over certain policies, it will be on your head if the world has to deal with a President Le Pen on May 7.