06 April 2022, The Tablet

Could a spectacular surprise in the French election still be on the cards?

French election 2022: This year, the only religious question to have played a major part has been hatred of Islam, whipped up by Zemmour and Le Pen.

Could a spectacular surprise in the French election still be on the cards?

Le Pen and Macron in 2017
Photo: Alamy/abaca, Christian Liewig


French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of this year’s presidential election, with few commentators doubting which two candidates will go through to the run-off

For much of this year, the French ­presidential campaign – over­shadowed by the war in Ukraine – has lacked urgency. In January, President Emmanuel Macron held a clear lead in the opinion polls, averaging 25 per cent of the vote. This has now increased to 26 per cent. He is most unlikely to be eliminated in the first round and his current advantage may well be enough to win him a second five-year term when the two candidates who top the poll on Sunday dispute the second round on 24 April. Three months ago, his closest challenger was Marine Le Pen, leader of the hard-right RN (National Rally – formerly the National Front). She is still the runner-up, her score having risen from 15 per cent to around 23 per cent.

In most European democracies, a presidential election would be disputed by candidates from the Left and the Right. But for the second time running, the Left in France has failed to make a serious bid for presidential power. Only Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former Socialist minister who now leads a hard-left group called La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), has an outside chance of joining Macron in the second round. Among the nine candidates who will certainly be eliminated on Sunday are representatives of the Socialist Party (PS), the Green Party, the Communist Party and two Trotskyists. The centre-right Republican Valérie Pécresse and Éric Zemmour, the nationalist and racist journalist who made much of the early running, will also fall by the wayside.


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