The race for the French presidency is in full swing. Will France turn away from its traditional parties towards Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, anti-EU, “France first” Front National? According to Tilburg University student Martin Delarue, who is following the elections in his home country closely, the answer is no. “I don’t believe Marine Le Pen will become our next president.”
The political mainstream breathed a sigh of relief when anti-muslim, anti-immigration and anti-EU politician Geert Wilders lost the Dutch elections last month. Now it’s France’s turn to go the polls, and all eyes are on far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Will she seize power in France? “I’m not worried that Front National will win the presidential election”, says Martin Delarue from Nice, who studies accountancy at Tilburg University.
France will elect a new president in two voting rounds, on April 23rd and May 7th. Opinion polls predict that Marine Le Pen will win the first round of voting, but then lose to a more mainstream candidate in the second round. Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are considered the front-runners for the first round of voting. They will most likely go head to head in the second round, which is a runoff between the two leading candidates – voters can only choose between those two candidates in the second voting round. It will be difficult for Le Pen to win this round, since she lacks political allies to join forces with. “All parties will rally against her”, says Delarue. “That’s also what happened in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen lost the race for the presidency to Jacques Chiraq.”
“Le Pen won’t win the second round of voting, because all other parties will rally against her”
In 2002, Marine Le Pen’s father and political predecessor Jean-Marie Le Pen got through to the second round of the presidential election. But tactical voting by supporters of other parties kept Le Pen’s far-right Front National from power. Could Marine Le Pen now bring her father’s party to victory?
Interestingly, Marine Le Pen is particularly popular with Martin Delarue’s generation. About a quarter of voters aged between 18 and 24 support Front National, polls suggest. They are driven towards Le Pen by lack of opportunities and poor economic prospects. According to The Guardian, these disillusioned young voters, “who never knew the antisemitic, racist, Holocaust-denying rhetoric of the Front National founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen”, are attracted by Le Pen’s nationalist program and economic protectionism. “Young people have tried the traditional left and right parties and we feel nothing was done for us. So we’ve looked for an alternative”, 20-year-old student Marie Buzzetti told the newspaper. Martin Delarue thinks a victory for Le Pen would be “a bad thing”, he says. “Especially if that means we would go back to our old currency. According to some experts, that would add 30 billion euros per year to our debt.”
Only 10% of voters between 18 and 24 intends to vote for Le Pen’s right-wing conservative rival François Fillon, who was considered the favorite to win the presidential election before becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal. Investigative newspaper Le Canard Echainé alleged that Fillon had created fake jobs for his wife and children. “Before what was revealed in Le Canard Enchainé, everybody thought that Fillon was going to be the future president”, Delarue says. “Many of my friends and people I know, and myself too, were going to vote for François Fillon because his ideas were the ones that matched ours best. But with all the things he’s involved in, I don’t see myself voting for him.”
“I think these elections are very difficult for the French people”
In Tilburg, Delarue follows the latest news on the scandal-plagued presidential race in his home country closely. “I think that these elections are very difficult for the French people. This is the first time so many bad things are happening”, he says. “That’s why I follow this election even more closely than I would a ‘normal’ election. I follow the news every day and I watch the debates.”
Delarue isn’t quite sure yet who he will vote for. He’s not going to vote for Marine Le Pen, in any case, and he will not be voting for François Fillon either. Emmanuel Macron, then? “Macron is the only suitable candidate left in my opinion”, Delarue says. “I still need to read his program, though.”
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