‘Worried’ Macron faces bitter election battle after failing to inspire voters
Macron: Regional results in France ‘bruising’ says expert
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And the 43-year-old has been warned he can no longer rely on France’s electoral system to prevent the election of a right-wing candidate such as National Rally’s Marine Le Pen next year. Meanwhile former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is likely to be hampered by his lack of charisma, Dr Joseph Downing said.
The LSE Fellow in Nationalism at the LSE’s European Institute was speaking at a time when Mr Macron is hampered by poor approval ratings, with polls suggesting he faces being beaten by Mrs Le Pen in the first round of voting next year.
Ms Le Pen’s party suffered a setback in regional elections, picking up 18 percent of the vote nationwide – nine points down on last year.
However, Mr Macron’s party did even worse, winning just ten percent of the vote.
And with Politico’s Poll of Polls, which includes surveys up to and including June 21, showing Mrs Le Pen, on 27 percent, narrowly leading Mr Macron, on 25 percent, in terms of first round preferences, Dr Downing said concern was mounting, especially given turnout slumped to 33 percent.
He told Express.co.uk: “He is worried for two reasons.
“Locals will be seen as somewhat of a litmus test on his very unpopular presidency.
“Very low turn out is a bad sign as it shows not only his, and his “movements” inability to inspire voters, but can also empower more radical political fringes who are more likely to vote.”
In accordance with France’s two-stage Presidential election, multiple candidates face off in a first round before the top two move on to a second a fortnight later.
In 2017, Mr Macron took 24 percent of the vote in the first round, with Mrs Le Pen winning just over 21 percent to finish second.
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In the second, he won comfortably, taking 66 percent of the vote – almost double that of his opponent.
Conventional wisdom has it the system effectively prevents extreme candidates such as Ms Le Pen from prevailing.
However, Dr Downing said Mr Macron could no longer take victory for granted.
He explained: “To me the problem with that explanation is voter fatigue.
“How many times can you mobilise a population around the emergency “threat” rhetoric, especially in the face of the COVID and vaccination fiasco?
“In short we are not in the context in which that hypothesis was formed – who would have thought Trump could win?”
With respect to Mr Barnier, who is widely believed to be considering throwing his hat in the ring, Dr Downing said: “Barnier is interesting.
“He is more prominent in British politics due to Brexit and is little known, and little respected, in the French context.
“He is a bureaucrat and has the charisma of a bureaucrat – a breath of fresh air in the face of Macron’s veneer of arrogance and Le Pen’s thinly cloaked xenophobia? Or just boring? I think the latter.”
The first round of voting in the 2022 French Presidential election will take place on April 10, with the second round scheduled for April 24.
Apart from Mr Macron and Mrs Le Pen, other confirmed candidates include Xavier Bertrand and Jean-Luc Melenchon.
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