With some deliberately provocative remarks about those refusing to be vaccinated, Emmanuel Macron is hoping to create trouble for his three right-wing opponents in the forthcoming French presidential election
With three months to go before the French presidential elections, the leading contenders are still shadow-boxing, constrained by the need to fight two election campaigns at the same time – one for the first round on 10 April, the second with an eye to the run-off two weeks later.
It is sometimes said that the French vote “for” in the first round and “against” in the second. On 10 April, voters will enjoy the luxury of encouraging their favoured “no-hoper”. This system leads to a crowded field with several dozen idealists attempting to win the minimum number of 500 parrainages – or endorsements – from elected officials that will enable them to run. The two leading candidates in the first round then move on, unless one receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, in which case he or she is elected. (Since 1965, there has always been a second round.)
Last month’s three front-runners have now been joined by a fourth, Valérie Pécresse, candidate of the mainstream right party, Les Républicains (LR), which – using various different names – governed France under Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy for 17 years between 1995 and 2012. Pécresse’s victory in an LR party primary on 4 December doubled her score in the national opinion polls. She now joins the two candidates from the far Right: Marine Le Pen of the RN (National Rally, formerly National Front) and Eric Zemmour, a polemical journalist and French nationalist, who leads an independent movement called Reconquête (Reconquest). All three are 8 to 10 points behind President Emmanuel Macron, whose movement En Marche (“Forward March”) has a majority in the National Assembly. He has been consistently attracting about 25 per cent of the vote for several months.