French Election 2022: Voters See Stark Contrast in Macron v. Le Pen in Presidential Race
05:44 GMT 24.04.2022 (Updated: 10:54 GMT 05.03.2023)
© AP Photo / Eric FeferbergFrench presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National party, Marine Le Pen, left, and French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement, Emmanuel Macron, pose prior to the start of a live broadcast face-to-face televised debate in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, May 3, 2017. It's meant to be the climax of France's presidential campaign. Centrist French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right contender Marine Le Pen are facing each other Wednesday April 20, 2022 evening in a one-on-one televised debate that promises to be challenging for both of them _ and may be decisive ahead of Sunday's runoff vote.
© AP Photo / Eric Feferberg
As French citizens head to the polls on Sunday, voters will be faced with choosing whether pro-European Union incumbent President Emmanuel Macron or right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen will lead the nation with the seventh-largest economy.
Polls leading up to election day in France showed La Republique en Marche (LREM) party nominee Emmanuel Macron with a solid lead over National Rally (RN) party nominee Marine Le Pen.
Respondents to an April 22 survey by Ipsos found that 57.5% of French voters intend to cast their ballot for Macron, while 42.5% have plans to vote for Le Pen. More than 1,500 individuals were included in the sample.
Back in 2017, Macron notably became the youngest president in France’s history after beating Le Pen by more than 30 percentage points.
The centrist’s victory served as France’s departure from the traditional center-right and center-left parties.
22 April 2022, 17:47 GMT
Despite surveys swinging in Macron’s favor, Le Pen’s third run for the presidency could prove successful, as the right-wing leader’s anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic platform has become less radical to many French voters amid deep political cleavages between native and immigrant populations; wealthy and working-class individuals; and urban and rural populations.
Emmanuel Macron (LREM), centrist, incumbent
Macron, now 44, previously served as a senior civil servant at France’s Inspectorate General of Finances before taking on an investment banker role at Rothschild & Co.
During the first round of France’s presidential election, Macron received 27.5% of the votes–more than six percentage points ahead of both Le Pen (23.3%) and left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (22%), of the French Insoumise movement. Twelve candidates were up for election.
Macron notably warned that Le Pen, if elected, could stoke a “civil war” with policies such as her proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in public.
With Melenchon out of the running, Macron has taken to rallying the left-wing candidate’s supporters to back his agenda. Although Melenchon has not explicitly backed Macron, he has told his widely diverse and working-class supporters that “we must not give a single vote to Mrs. Le Pen.”
© AP Photo / Benoit TessierCentrist candidate and French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he meets residents after a campaign rally Friday, April 22, 2022 in Figeac, southwestern France. Emmanuel Macron is facing off against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in France's April 24 presidential runoff.
Centrist candidate and French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he meets residents after a campaign rally Friday, April 22, 2022 in Figeac, southwestern France. Emmanuel Macron is facing off against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in France's April 24 presidential runoff.
© AP Photo / Benoit Tessier
In an effort to court additional supporters from the left, Macron took to the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. During his visit to the multicultural commune, the 44-year-old incumbent warned the public of Le Pen’s plan to provide preferential treatment to French nationals.
In a follow-up example, Macron said “a young Moroccan lady who has two children, who works at the hospital, who was applauded every evening during the pandemic … with Madame Le Pen’s program, we will take away her social housing and her family benefits.”
He also accused his opponent of “mixing up terrorism, insecurity, immigration, Islam and Islamism all the time.”
He also vowed to do more to assist disadvantaged communities while continuing to lower unemployment and stimulate economic growth via tax cuts.
13 April 2022, 13:21 GMT
During a debate aired by French broadcasters France 2 and TF1 on April 20, Macron dug into Le Pen’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as previous statements made in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Macron highlighted that, in 2014, Le Pen’s party took out a €9 million (~$13 million) loan from the First Czech Russian Bank, an entity that has been linked to the Kremlin.
“You talk about your banker when you talk about Russia, that’s the problem,” Macron said. “You depend on Russian power, you depend on Mr. Putin.”
The pro-EU incumbent has consistently said that he intends to put France “at the heart of the diplomatic game,” and has warned that his opponent’s ideology would hurt the country's standing.
Marine Le Pen (RN), right-wing
Le Pen, 53, made strides in recent years to rebrand the once-fringe and radical political image of both herself and the National Rally–previously known as the National Front.
By focusing on the social and economic concerns of France, Le Pen was able to win 23.3% of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election.
Le Pen’s anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic platform has primarily focused on the rising global cost of living, France’s economic ranking, Macron’s leadership style, and the prioritization of French nationals for jobs and benefits.
The 53-year-old remarked that the voters have a “fundamental” choice to make on Sunday.
“It is in the hands of the French people. It is Macron, or France,” she remarked.
Le Pen has also remarked that Macron simply “does not like the French”
During their April 20 debate, Le Pen defended her alleged ties to Russia and Putin, asserting that she was “a completely free and independent woman” and, via her party, obtained a loan from a foreign bank after failing to get approval from a French bank.
As the situation in Ukraine compounds France’s economic concerns, including inflation and surging energy prices, many disgruntled working-class voters may throw their support behind Le Pen.
Le Pen has said her government would go on a spending spree, scrap income taxes for those under 30, slash taxes on energy and several basic goods. The right-wing candidate pledged the changes, which cutting social benefits for foreigners, would restore between €150 ($163) and €200 ($217) per month in household purchasing power.
© AP Photo / Jeremias GonzalezFrench far-right leader Marine Le Pen smiles as she arrives for a campaign stop Monday, April 18, 2022 in Saint-Pierre-en-Auge, Normandy. French President Emmanuel Macron is facing off against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in France's April 24 presidential runoff.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen smiles as she arrives for a campaign stop Monday, April 18, 2022 in Saint-Pierre-en-Auge, Normandy. French President Emmanuel Macron is facing off against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in France's April 24 presidential runoff.
© AP Photo / Jeremias Gonzalez
The far-right candidate notably objects to NATO, invoking the philosophy that France should be in control of its own armed forces and defense in an effort to avoid “subjection to an American protectorate.”
A Le Pen victory would bring France its first female president, as well as its first right-wing president. If elected, Le Pen intends to move forward with a ‘France-first’ referendum on immigration and preferential treatment of nationals.