Macron Favoured To Win In France, But Think, Trump, Brexit.
“Le Pen’s programme defies accepted definitions of “far right” being way to the left of Macron”
“Although she’s often described as a right-winger, Ms. Le Pen’s platform would find sympathy on the far left”
“This suggests that socialists, when confronted with these choices, might well opt for Le Pen”
If you think the new French president can’t be anybody else but the overwhelming favour rite Emmanuel Macron, think of these two words – “Trump” and “Brexit”.
Marine Le Pen could upset the odds if her interventionist policies, which contradict the “far right” label, win the support of some socialists. French irritation with the European Union might win support for her too.
The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president defied all known informed and expert opinion until the result was announced. The same thing happened in Britain when the conventional wisdom was stunned by the victory of the “Leave” campaign in the referendum on membership of the E.U.
But according to an early Presitrack poll produced by French pollsters Opinionway “centrist” Macron of En Marche (Let’s Go, or On The Move) will be an easy winner in the final runoff May 7 with about 60%, compared with “far right” Le Pen’s 40%. On Thursday this tightened slightly to show Macron at 58% versus Le Pen’s 41%, but the latest figures Friday showed 60% versus 40% again. The polls also show about a third of leftist voters and almost a quarter of conservatives will abstain in the runoff. There is only just over a week to go, so surely the polls can’t be that wrong, or the laggard surely has not enough time to whip up support?
Let me suggest a couple of reasons why a Le Pen win might be possible.
Macron ran as a candidate who loved the E.U., and wanted more political integration. But the French have a reputation for being almost as Eurosceptic as the British, so the fact he won the first round with about 24% of the vote suggests that in a 2 horse race there is huge scope for Le Pen (21.3%), who wants to leave the Euro single currency, and wants a referendum on France’s membership of the E.U.
Secondly, the first round of voting was disastrous for the socialists, the party of incumbent president Francois Hollande. The socialist candidate Benoit Hamon won only 6.4%, while another left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon scored 19.5%, the same as conservative candidate Francois Fillon. If the labels “centrist” and “far right” mean anything, you would expect most socialists to line-up behind Macron, particularly as he was close to the Hollande administration. But Macron has eschewed much left-wing policy, while Le Pen’s program defies accepted definitions of “far right” being way to the left of Macron.
Le Pen’s programme includes Frexit and leaving the Euro single currency, maintaining the 35-hour week, reducing taxes on the lower paid but raising them on the rich, increased regulation, erecting barriers to globalisation, lowering the retirement age to 60, and taxing the employment of foreign workers. She wants a greater role for the state in supporting French companies. On foreign policy and national security, she would turn away from France’s traditional Atlantic orientation and towards Russia. Surely this is a very left wing agenda.
Cut corporate taxes
Macron’s campaign calls among other things for more integration with the E.U., lowering corporate taxes to 25% from 33.3%, establishing a $54.3 billion government investment plan, 120,000 government job cuts, and some leeway with the current mandatory 35-hour working week.
This obsession with labelling Le Pen “far right” has surely defied logic. But with Macron’s policies clearly to the right of Le Pen’s, even the BBC Newsnight programme, which always called her “far right”, suddenly changed to labelling her a nationalist.
The Wall Street Journal agrees.
“Although she’s often described as a right-winger, Ms. Le Pen’s platform would find sympathy on the far left. She advocates abandoning the euro and the EU, which have acted as partial counterbalances to Paris’s statist habits,” said the Wall Street Journal in an editorial earlier this week.
Fox News opinion journalist Tucker Carlson, in an interview with former State Department spokesperson Marie Harf before the first round election, said Le Pen’s programme “was pretty liberal” on social and economic matters, adding he thought her views were really “left-of center”.
This suggests that socialists, when confronted with these choices, might well opt for Le Pen.
Fear of pollsters
There is also the Trump factor possibly distorting opinion polls, with many voters concealing their true allegiance because the media portrays Le Pen as an extreme right wing fascist monster who hates Islam. The issue of Islam, in a country with the biggest Muslim population in Europe and where Islamic terrorism has been a huge problem, is another factor which might win votes for Le Pen. She has been very aggressive calling for action to curb Muslim immigration.
It goes without saying that if Le Pen does win, economic chaos is likely. If France withdraws from the euro, that will force the likes of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands to withdraw too, otherwise they will be priced out of export markets. That would leave Germany, forced to trade in a more expensive currency.
But whoever wins the presidential election, even one considered by some to be extreme, they will need to win seats in the National Assembly in June to be able to govern effectively, so if Le Pen wins, this next round of elections might well produce a result to rein her in.