As expected, final counting in Sunday’s French election improved Emmanuel Macron’s position slightly (because rural districts, which favor the right, tend to report first). He finished with 24.0% to Marine Le Pen’s 21.3%, followed by François Fillon on 20.0%, Jean-Luc Mélenchon 19.6% and Benoît Hamon 6.4%.
Macron has been endorsed for the runoff by almost the whole of France’s political class. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to add his voice to that chorus, although reports are unclear whether he will confine it to a personal endorsement or encourage his supporters to follow suit. The political bureau of his Republican party put out a statement saying that “In the face of the National Front, abstention cannot be a choice.”
The big hold-out so far is the far left’s Mélenchon, who has attracted considerable adverse comment for his stance. As the New York Times reports, he is holding an internet-based consultation of his supporters, in which the options are “a blank ballot, a vote for Mr. Macron or an abstention. A vote for Ms. Le Pen is not one of the choices, and Mr. Mélenchon’s aides insist that is the last thing they want.” Nonetheless, there is no doubt that some of his vote will leak to Le Pen.
But in contrast to what you might think from their leaders’ positions (or the media), it is from the right that Le Pen is more likely to draw support. Polls taken since Sunday show Macron picking up on a net basis 70%-80% of Hamon’s vote, 30%-50% of Mélenchon’s vote, but only 10%-20% of Fillon’s.
The Republican leadership sees part of its task as to live up to its party’s name and defend the values of the republic against its enemies. But many of its voters see the world more in left-right terms, and instinctively shy away from a candidate of the centre-left. Hence “Manif pour tous”, the anti-same-sex marriage organisation that strongly backed Fillon, put out a statement opposing Macron for the runoff, calling him an “overtly anti-family candidate.”
It does not actually endorse Le Pen, but there is no corresponding criticism of her, even though one might have thought that rounding up Jewish children to send to the gas chambers was also “anti-family”.
It’s that moral blindness on the right more than her policy similarities with the far left that will ensure Le Pen a much better score on Sunday week than the 17.8% that her father achieved in 2002. Even so, she will lose in a landslide; the odds of 9-2 that the betting market is offering are very stingy in the circumstances. (Macron has come in to a still generous 7-1 on.)
That much is not in doubt. The interesting part will be to see if President Macron can somehow put France’s fractured political system back together.