In the first round of voting in the French presidential elections held on Sunday, April 10, incumbent president Emmanuel Macron from the La Republique En Marche (LREM) emerged as the front runner after securing 27.60% of the votes while Marine Le Pen from the far-right National Rally (RN) emerged second with 23.41% votes. Jean Luch Melenchon from the leftist platform La France Insoumise (LFI) managed a close third with 21.95% votes. As no candidate obtained an outright majority with 50% vote share in the first round, Macron and Le Pen will go for a runoff scheduled for April 24, repeating the scenario of the 2017 presidential polls. The candidates from traditional political groups like center-right Republicans (LR) and center-left Socialist Party (PS) failed to gain even 5% of the votes. Around 73.69% of the total electorate voted in the first round.
This outcome was predicted by major pollsters and political analysts as the splintering of the right-wing and left-wing forces in the country has given an edge to Macron. This is despite him facing widespread protests from several sections over his controversial neoliberal reforms.
Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour from the Reconquête did not win as many votes as predicted by pollsters but still managed 7.7% that would have otherwise gone to Le Pen. Melenchon emerged as the underdog by securing a close third. If the French Communist Party (PCF), which secured 2.28% votes, had endorsed the candidature of Melenchon, it could have pushed the French left into the second round. Pollsters are now predicting a close contest between Macron and Le Pen in the upcoming second round, bound to take place within two weeks.
In an editorial in L’Humanite on Monday, April 11, Maud Vergnol said that the election’s result is a shock, but not a surprise. “A majority of voters woke up this morning disappointed or angry, but mostly worried. The scenario that 80% of French people did not want a few weeks ago was repeated yesterday, thanks, among other things, to a low turnout for a presidential election – around 12 million voters did not consider it useful to move.”
Vergnol said that the far-right National Rally is gaining ground due to the social despair and inequality caused by Macron’s policies.
“The close contest predicted by the polls in the second round should alert us. The victory of the far-right on April 24 is no longer impossible. We will have to vote, with our heads held high, without a blank cheque to the outgoing president. The left – the entire left – faces the historic responsibility not to leave our country in the hands of the far right,” she added.