17:11 GMT11 April 2021
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    Centrist establishment candidate Emmanuel Macron and right-wing National Front candidate Marine Le Pen are set to face off in the second round of voting in France's presidential elections on May 7. Russian business magazine Expert has explained why the race, weighted heavily in Macron's favor, shouldn't be seen as a foregone conclusion.

    Macron, a former Minister of Economy and investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque, won the first round of France's presidential election last Sunday, receiving 24% of the vote. Le Pen, leader of the conservative nationalist, hard euroscepticist National Front, got 21.3%. 

    The pair will face off in a highly anticipated election about a week from now, a race that has already been described as a battle for the future not only of France, but of Europe as well.

    Ahead of the vote, a series of election polls have shown Macron leading by a comfortable margin of up to 60%. All of France's major parties, with the exception of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who won nearly 20% of the vote in the first round, have directed their supporters to vote against Le Pen. 

    Offering its own perspective on the election, Russian business magazine Expert wrote that putting political pundits' predictions aside, if it is smart, the Macron campaign won't succumb to arrogance amid its perceived easy victory.

    "In the Macron campaign headquarters right now, they should be remembering Hillary Clinton," the magazine wrote. "She, like Macron today, was promised an easy victory simply because her opponent, it seemed, couldn't win – he simply couldn't win. Everyone knows what happened after that."

    French centrist presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, center, talks to workers at the Whirlpool home appliance factory, Wednesday April 26, 2017 in Amiens, northern France
    © AP Photo / Thibault Camus
    French centrist presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, center, talks to workers at the Whirlpool home appliance factory, Wednesday April 26, 2017 in Amiens, northern France

    Furthermore, Expert added, the events in the campaign so far, including those at the Whirlpool company factory in Macron's hometown of Amiens, have "confirmed just how dangerous and premature it would be for the candidate to rest on his laurels."

    Since Monday, French media have been actively covering intense protests by Whirlpool's workers over the plant management's plans to close the factory and outsource it to Poland. 

    "Not surprisingly," Expert noted, "both Macron and Le Pen came out to talk with the workers. But whereas she was met with applause, Macron, on the contrary, was booed." 

    Indeed, greeted with enthusiasm as she made her impromptu visit, Le Pen told workers that France's membership in the EU was the culprit behind the problems faced by French industry. Macron, arriving at the factory just hours later, was booed after blaming the factory's problems on the current government, and claiming that Le Pen was "lying" when she spoke about the need to scale back globalization and close the country's borders.

    The visit, and Le Pen's aggressive efforts to cast Macron as a puppet for French and multinational "oligarchs," is important, according to Expert, due to the fact that the country's 'anti-globalization proletariat' had been the mainstay of Melenchon, who refused to endorse Macron. 

    "Le Pen, meanwhile, has been demonstrating her determination to campaign beyond her traditional electorate –comprised primarily of Eurosceptics who are opposed to immigration and hungry for populist appeals." In the interests of attracting the broadest possible support, Le Pen even stepped down from her position as leader of the National Front, a party which has certain, often negative associations in the eyes of the French, who remember the days when it was run by her father.

    With the entirety of the French and European establishment putting its support behind Macron, Expert stressed that it was obvious that "she has decided to go for broke, being left with no other options." 

    Indeed, Brussels has firmly planted its political weight behind Macron, to the point of accusing Le Pen of criminal misappropriation of funds, and threatening to lift her immunity as an MEP. EU leaders, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini have openly breached diplomatic protocol, by backing Macron outright.

    Le Pen has rejected the claims made against her over her alleged misuse of funds, saying that the case was instigated by her political opponents.

    Marine Le Pen, French presidential candidate and leader of the political party the National Front, during a news conference following the first round of the presidential election.
    © Sputnik / Kristina Afanasyeva
    Marine Le Pen, French presidential candidate and leader of the political party the National Front, during a news conference following the first round of the presidential election.

    Naturally, Expert recalled, "both French prosecutors, and the European Parliament deny any connection between the charges and the election campaign. But in reality, there's no doubt that such a connection exists. The EU's leadership has a direct interest in seeing Le Pen lose." 

    After all, the magazine noted, even though the ongoing 'breakup' with the UK after Brexit has not been easy, the EU is expected to survive. "France on the other hand is the heart of the EU, along with Germany. If Paris decides to leave, there is a good chance that the supranational union will empty out and be left with only with the Eastern Europeans and most likely Germany."

    In principle, of course, the accusations made against Le Pen by prosecutors and the European Parliament may end up influencing the French electorate. "It's enough to recall the history of Francois Fillon, who until recently had been predicted to make it into the second round," Expert recalled. "His ratings plummeted under the weight of charges similar to those against Le Pen." Fillon had been accused of giving his wife a fake government job over the course of nearly a decade.

    "There is a nuance, however" the magazine added. "The case against Fillon was made public against the background of a general decline in the electoral rating of the mainstream French Right. The country had grown tired of their age-old confrontation with the Socialists, all the more so because the results of the governance of both parties have been the same: general disappointment. France needed new faces, and thus eagerly jumped on the opportunity to vote against Fillon."

    Le Pen, on the other hand, faced no dissent from among her own electorate. Furthermore, the National Front does not currently hold any major office at the national level, and is thus looked upon as an alternative to the major two parties, neither of which made it into the second round.

    Finally, Expert stressed that "it shouldn't be forgotten that Le Pen herself can use the weapon that has been used against her against her opponent. After all, Macron has also been accused of corruption," including embezzlement charges from during his time as Economy Minister.

    Ultimately, the magazine expressed that although the chances of a Le Pen win remain small, it would be foolhardy to see her loss as a foregone conclusion, particularly since the election is still more than a week away.


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    expert analysis, presidential election, political analysis, elections, Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen, France
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