French election update

by Chris Bertram on April 14, 2022

As Crooked Timber readers are probably aware, the first round of the French election ended with sitting President Emmanuel Macron in the lead, followed by crypto-Fascist Putin-fan Marine Le Pen in second place, narrowly ahead of left-wing anti-globalist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in third place. Everyone else was pretty-much nowhere, although ultra-right Pétain fan Eric Zemmour won the vote among French citizens living in Israel, which is, er, interesting. With the field down to two, the big question is whether Mélenchon voters will transfer in sufficient numbers to Macron rather than going to Le Pen or not voting at all. Mélenchon himself has called for his supporters not to vote for the far right, but has not recommended a vote for Macron instead. This is a continuation of his stance in 2017, although in the past he backed right-winger Jacques Chirac against Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The anxiety, stoked by every journalist who has a story to write (since it is really the only “angle”) is that Le Pen might win because of Mélenchon transfers and abstentions. The polling doesn’t really support it, although it is worryingly close for anyone with memories of Trump and Brexit. Many journalists think that there is a sufficient hatred of Macron on the far left for Mélenchon’s voters to abstain. Well, what’s rational and what people will do are two different things, but my view is that such a refusal would be quixotic. The revival of the left in France – if such a thing is possible – relies on the opposition to Macron coming from the left, and in terms of numbers, Mélenchon has laid a foundation for that. But if Mélenchon supporters sit on their hands and Le Pen does well in percentage terms, coming as close as, say, 48 per cent, then the effective anti-Macron opposition will be identified with the nationalist right. So, paradoxically, the best prospect for a left-leaning opposition to Macron over the next five years comes from him defeating Marine Le Pen as decisively as possible.