He’s got it in the bag.That is the general assumption in France of Emmanuel Macron’s prospects going into the nation’s second, final round of voting for president on May 7, now that the center-left candidate, a 39-yearold upstart, has secured a slot on the ballot.
Macron (En Marche!) will face Marine Le Pen (until recently of the National Front), one of the most extreme Right politicians to feature in a major European runoff in decades.The starkness of that choice forced leaders of the Republicans and the Socialist Party – France’s two largest political factions – to swiftly endorse Macron on Sunday night, after failing to succeed past the first round themselves.Early polls conducted before Sunday’s vote showed him handily defeating her in a hypothetical runoff. And Macron is expected to absorb the majority of support for defeated Left, Socialist and moderate candidates, leaving few voter pools left from which Le Pen can salvage her general election candidacy.Yet this is precisely the sort of punditry striking fear in Macron’s camp, having witnessed what happened across the Atlantic not six months ago.They are concerned French voters will take Macron’s victory for granted and stay home on election day. They worry the Russian government – which Le Pen has openly embraced – will increase its cyber activity into Macron’s official campaign apparatus, and attempt to influence the final outcome in her favor. And they fear pollsters will fail to capture a quiet constituency willing to vote for Le Pen in the privacy of the voting booth. Sound familiar? It is just one of several ways in which the 2016 US presidential election has shaped events here.The race has been cast both at home and abroad as an extension of a worldwide conversation over globalization and the populist backlash against it. As the narrative goes, Le Pen seeks the next Brexit – a move that would deal a fatal blow to the European project – and she would upset the political elites with a victory that no one sees coming.Perhaps it is simply fear gripping the Macron campaign and its followers, but the consequences of this coming election paired with last year’s electoral surprises have them taking no chances. Macron’s team insists his ultimate victory is not in the bag and promise to fight like underdogs through Election Day.In her victory address on Sunday night, Le Pen stated that the future of France – and of Europe – is at stake in May. Macron is likely to make a similar argument.
Projections say Macron, Le Pen go through to runoff in French vote (credit: REUTERS)