This is the second edition of Split Ticket’s World Report, an article series devoted to covering foreign elections. Today’s edition will focus on the nations of France and Mexico, with the lion’s share of attention concentrated on the hotly-contested presidential race in the former. The returns received after this evening’s 1st round will determine which two candidates advance to the runoff on April 24th. Let’s break the race down.
The Four Main Candidates
Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron is running for reelection to a second five year term this cycle. As the inaugural nominee of the centrist En Marche party in 2017, Macron finished first in a heavily-fractured opening round before trouncing the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen 66-33. His runoff win was the most lopsided since Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, lost to President Jacques Chirac 82-18 in 2002. Before ascending to his office and achieving world renown, Macron was Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs. He has also worked as an investment banker.
Representing the National Rally, a renamed NF, is once again Marine Le Pen. Hailing from one of France’s dominant conservative political families, the younger Le Pen succeeded her father as leader of the country’s right-wing movement in 2011. She had previously entered the European Parliament, where she remained until becoming a member of the French National Assembly in 2017. Le Pen, who waged unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2017, is seeking the office for a third time in 2022. She is from Pas-de-Calais.
The third major contender for France’s most powerful office, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, represents the country’s far-left and has been in French politics since both of his opponent were youths. Formerly a Senator and European Parliament member, Mélenchon has served in the National Assembly since 2017. Mélenchon came incredibly close to contesting the 2nd round of the 2017 presidential race against Macron, finishing 4th in the initial returns by 1.3 points. He is from Marseille.
Éric Zemmour, the candidate of the far-right French nationalist Reconquest, has been the only other significant factor in first round polling from this cycle. A writer interested in politics and history, Zemmour has never held any elected position. His faction, right of the National Rally, is expected to draw away enough disillusioned conservative voters to grant him a fourth or fifth place finish. Any performance exceeding polling expectations would be rather shocking to say the least.
Other candidates who met the 500 signature requirement by March 4th include Republican Valérie Pécresse, Green Yannick Jadot, Communist Fabien Roussel, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Jean LaSalle, and Socialist Anne Hidalgo Aleu. Of this bunch, only the Republican Valérie Pécresse has made a dent in the 1st round polls. She is the strongest contender for fourth place against Zemmour.
Update (4/11/22) It is notable that the Republicans and Socialists, the two historically-prominent parties, received only 7% of yesterday’s combined vote. That’s down from 26% in 2017. In 2012, standard-bearers François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy both contested the second round.
The actual campaign season in France is incredibly short by American standards. One could easily demarcate it to blending period between the months of March and April. Since the political festivities kicked off, three main issues have more or less dominated the French political scene while simultaneously inundating its associated discourse: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global inflation, and the governmental consulting scandal.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began at the end of February and has persisted violently in the six weeks since the initial incursion. Macron, guiding a top member state of both NATO and the EU, has naturally become a frequent figure in press reports at home and abroad. His status as a calm negotiator with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, granted him significant credibility in the early stages of the conflict, when international actors still considered negotiated settlement a viable option.
Although Macron, like other western leaders, received an approval polling boost from the Ukrainian situation, his reelection prospects have since become woefully uncertain. Part of Le Pen’s 2nd round polling rise, assuming she makes it, could be explained by the nature of the 1st round campaign itself. Distracted by Europe’s increasingly-complex political realities, Macron has been accused of attempting to obviate the domestic campaign by his opponents. He has refused to partake in any debate before the initial canvass.
One issue that Le Pen, like opposition across the globe, has exploited is inflation. In France the economic situation is similar to that of the United States. Low unemployment may be a post-Covid economic reality, but continuing price inflation remains the biggest long-term burden on the economic stability of middle class citizens and indigent individuals. Reporting from the Wall Street Journal has noted that Macron’s attempts to cap energy prices while instituting rebates have fallen flat with many French voters in recent weeks. Piling onto the incumbent has made it easy for Le Pen to run from the outside as the candidate focused on inflation.
The McKinsey consulting scandal, unearthed by the French Senate in March, has proven to be one of the major thorns in the side of Macron’s reelection campaign. Criticisms articulated by the Wall Street Journal deal mostly with the vast amount of capital invested in advising related to Covid-19 vaccine introduction. Estimates place the sum just shy of $1 billion. Macron’s administration has defended itself by noting similarly-high spending on consulting by foreign governments, but it remains unclear whether the French people will be willing to look past wanton governmental spending during a time of economic uncertainty.
Polling for the 1st round, as expected, has generally remained close and consistent. Averaging suggests that Macron will narrowly finish ahead of Le Pen, pitting the two politicians against each other in a rematch of the 2017 race. Mélenchon, who finished third by a hair in the first round of France’s last presidential race, has also slowly increased his standing in recent weeks. Both Pécresse and Zemmour have seemingly stalled after earlier periods of unexpected momentum.
Should the 2nd round be held between Macron and Le Pen, recent polling would point to a tight contest. If Mélenchon or Zemmour were to somehow make the runoff, though, Macron’s chances of winning a second term would increase significantly according to current surveys.
- Split Ticket expects a Macron-Le Pen runoff campaign
A Note on Mexico
Mexico will be holding its first-ever Presidential recall election today. Contrary to what one might expect, this referendum on executive power was called by the incumbent himself: Andrés Manuel López Obrador. A left-wing populist, AMLO was first elected in 2018 on the groundswell of a discontented populace.
Obrador’s fate now rests in the hands of individual Mexicans, whose votes will determine whether he finishes the remaining two years of his term. Recent opinion surveys have shown that an average of 60-70% of Mexicans wish for the President to continue serving.