A dozen starters in France

With just under five weeks to go until the first round of France’s presidential election, the field is now set. When nominations closed last Friday, twelve candidates had secured the required sponsorship from at least 500 elected officials – an increase of one on the 2017 figure. You can see the official list from the Constitutional Council here.

Seven of the twelve were candidates in 2017, but only three of them are really serious: centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far-left Unsubmissive France. Another two of the parties that contested last time have new candidates: Valérie Pécresse for the centre-right Republicans, and Anne Hidalgo for the centre-left Socialists.

That leaves three entirely new candidates – Yannick Jadot for the Greens (which last time supported the Socialists); Fabien Roussel for the Communist Party (which last time supported Mélenchon); and on the extreme right, Trumpist provocateur Éric Zemmour, whose personal vehicle is called “Reconquest!”.

At one point Zemmour seemed to be struggling to reach the 500 mark but he collected more than 300 in the last eight days, finishing with a comfortable 741 (some distance ahead of Le Pen’s 622). Also notable for a late effort (as in 2017) was Trotskyist Philippe Poutou, who was the last to clear the mark but still had almost a hundred to spare, finishing on 596.

Things can change quickly in wartime, but at the moment Macron looks a pretty safe bet for re-election. He is polling in the high 20s for the first round and rising. Le Pen has now opened a break on her rivals for second place; she is polling in the high teens, while Pécresse, Zemmour and Mélenchon are bunched together in the low teens. No-one else is remotely close to being in contention for the runoff.

Hypothetical polls of the second round show Macron relatively untroubled, although not (yet) up towards the 66-34 margin that he held over Le Pen in 2017. Counter-intuitively, the most recent polls actually show Le Pen doing better in a runoff than Pécresse – not because Le Pen has improved, but because Pécresse’s star has waned badly since the beginning of the year.

All the signs are that French public opinion is strongly pro-Ukraine, so Macron stands to benefit not just from a general rallying to the government in a time of crisis, but more specifically from the fact that his four leading opponents all have something of a history of being soft on Russia. There is still time for the president to slip up, but at this point he shows no sign of it.


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