Marine Le Pen Will Still Win the 2022 Presidential Election – Labour Article
Whenever a political organisation radicalises its agenda and appoints a populist as its leader, there is a concerted effort by a politically diverse range of media outlets to stop these radicals from obtaining power. This is not to say that right-wing and left-wing populists have anything in common. They do not. However, liberals conflate right-wing and left-wing populism because they both pose a threat to the liberal establishment. This phenomenon occurred recently following the Rassemblement National’s (henceforth referred to as the National Rally) poor performance in France’s regional elections.
The Spectator published an article condemning Marine Le Pen as an establishment politician, and the Guardian and Financial Times have jumped on the National Rally’s electoral disaster as a predictor of Marine Le Pen’s defeat in the upcoming 2022 presidential election. However, in the case of the Spectator, this may be in retaliation to Marine Le Pen’s recent ‘detoxification’ strategy of the National Rally. This can be perceived as a strategic deradicalization of the party to appeal to more voters.
There has been a convergence in the centre-left and centre-right opinion. This is in their fear of Marine Le Pen and what she represents. This fear has made their political analysis unreliable. This is seen through their publications of articles about Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning the 2022 presidential election. Marine Le Pen will win the 2022 presidential election despite the National Rally’s failure in the regional elections.
The eagerness with which the media has reported on the failures of the National Rally in the regional elections shows their political analysis should not be relied upon in this instance. There are many reasons why the National Rally failed in the regional elections separate from a lack of support. There was a historically low voter turnout of 35%-, down from 50%+ in the 2015 regional elections culminating in a shocking fact. Only one in three eligible voters were going to the polls. In contrast, there was a 77% voter turnout in the 2017 presidential elections. Historically, voter turnout for the presidential elections is much higher than for local elections. This implies that all of the National Rally supporters that abstained from voting in the regional elections will most definitely vote in the 2022 presidential race.
In addition, a disproportionate number of those who abstained from voting in the regional elections were National Rally supporters. Furthermore, Politico published a Poll of Polls after the National Rally’s failure in the regional elections, finding that Macron and Le Pen will be tied with 25% of the vote share each in the first round of polls.
Furthermore, ad hoc alliances were organised to repel the electoral aspirations of the National Rally. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region (Paca), Renaud Muselier (current regional president) announced an alliance with Macron’s LREM (Le Republique En Marche!). This was to prevent the National Rally from winning. However, this was soon denounced by Christian Jacobs, the chairman of Muselier’s own Republican party. He claimed that joining forces with Macron would put off National Rally supporters he hoped to gain the support of. Thus, if the electoral failures of the National Rally were contrived, it is foolhardy to use these same electoral failures as proof that Le Pen will not win the presidential race.
In a bid to devolve power from the central government, and reform the stifling bureaucratic system of French governance, a number of reforms were passed, reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13. The reforms were unpopular with the French electorate and may, in part, explain the poor voter turnout for the regional elections, as a form of protest. The National Rally has a lot of rurally based supporters. Therefore, these reforms – that forced the closure of courthouses, tax offices, and clinics in smaller rural towns in favour of larger units in the regional capitals – may explain that the vast majority of eligible voters who abstained from voting in the regional elections were National Rally supporters.
The reforms were also instigated by members of the European Parliament, stoking anti-EU sentiments within the party further. A statistic eagerly promoted by the liberal media is that in the 2015 regional elections Marine Le Pen won 28% of the vote. A sharp contrast with 20% of the vote in the 2021 regional elections. However, taking this at face value is dangerous and whiffs of complacency. If we roll over now and do not offer a radical socialist alternative that entices a disenfranchised electorate, Marine Le Pen will definitely win the 2022 presidential race. Centrist politics are fragile and dangerous; they ultimately leave people disillusioned with the political system and craving change in any form. That is when fascism can worm its way into people’s minds as a solution. It plays on their feelings of resentment and powerlessness.
When we consider the data above, the 8% decrease in the National Rally’s vote share in the 2021 regional elections is not indicative of a loss of support or influence. It does not mean that the presidential race will be more diverse in its candidature. Political pundits believe the outcome of the regional elections indicates the return of the centre-right. This is wrong. In 2016, the vast majority of political analysts were wrong. They are wrong now too.
Marine Le Pen will win the 2022 presidential election if the Left does not mobilise and offer a radical alternative to the centrist politics that have dominated the French political system over the last four years.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, George Stroud
Point of Information
The Media Regularly Underestimates, not just Le Pen – A Liberal Response
This is a well-written article by George. I agree with the sentiment that media outlets are mistakenly underestimating Le Pen. However, the result is far from a sure thing. I recently wrote an article outlining my take on the election result and I agree with George. The electoral success of more centrist politicians and underperformance by the NR and LREM is not an indication of future results.
This underestimation by the media is not a new phenomenon. In 2016, it was Brexit in June and Trump in November. Media outlets have proven over and over again that they cannot be trusted in predicting results. This is not to say that I equally agree with George’s assertion that Le Pen is a President in waiting. The voting system in France, including a run-off vote, ensures this. Although Le Pen may get to a final round, her ideologically extreme position sees votes go against her in favour of the other candidate, as seen in 2017 with Macron.
Additionally, the emergence of Xavier Bertrand, a more mainstream centre-right candidate, could draw voters away from Le Pen. Despite this, I definitely see the election as being Macron v Le Pen: Part Two. But do not carry the same expectation as George that Le Pen will undoubtedly be elected. It will be a lot closer than in 2017 and, although the media are once again underestimating the outsider, I would not be surprised if Le Pen is elected President.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Volatility runs deep in the French Psyche – A Conservative Response
A few months ago, an interesting story came out concerning two letters sent by serving and retired French servicemen, warning of the potential of Civil War. The justification being supposed concessions made by Macron towards Islamic terrorist groups, despite limited evidence of it. Whilst widely condemned, it does reflect a theme within the French psyche of a tendency towards ripping up the old and starting afresh rather than reforming their existing. France has had 15 different constitutions since the (first) Revolution.
Marine le Pen running for president is probably (hopefully) not going to end in civil war. But my point is that the French electorate has little aversion to radical ideas and practices. This is hard to comprehend when coming from a country that has been quite so politically stable as our own. England in particular has had a long history of political stability, with Britain’s island nature shielding it from the European mainland’s more radical and explosive moments. By contrast, France doesn’t have the safety net of, arguably, 400 years of governmental consistency. The French are well-versed in revolution, and it would be foolish not to recognise this and encourage further polarisation.
George is right in his, I must say, well-written article. The media have completely cast aside and underestimated Le Pen. However, three British publications have been cited to reflect this. France is typically warier of those perceived as outsiders. This is especially the case when they appear to appeal to a not insubstantial voter base.
The idea of devising a “radical socialist alternative” to Le Pen may be nice on paper. However one must look at what the voters want, and what can survive long-term. Creating an even more polarised political atmosphere will only deepen divisions within a historically volatile electorate.
In France anything is a possibility. A successful presidential campaign, for any candidate but especially those opposing Le Pen, must be about not only unifying all peoples around a clear vision for France’s future. It should be arguing for legitimacy and for trust in the current French political system.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alex McQuitty
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.