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.
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."
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."
"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.
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.
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."
"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.