Speculating About the Macron v. Le Pen Presidential Election Rematch

Conventional wisdom says that Emmanuel Macron will beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of French Presidential elections on April 24. Having said that, Macron is exposed to some risks that could set him back and propel Le Pen to an unexpected win. French and EU readers, who are almost certainly better informed, are encouraged to correct me as I work though some of the issues.

On a very simpleminded basis, a development that may dim Le Pen’s prospects is that the momentum she had been showing appears to have stalled out as the first round closed. Le Pen has been taking ground against Macron in recent weeks, as this FiveThirtyEight tally shows:

The penultimate poll showed Le Pen lagging Macron by 3%-4% in the runoff and one right before the balloting started, from polling firm Elaba, of over 1800 voters, showed an only 1% gap, at 26% for Macron versus 25% for Le Pen. This is the actual tally:

So Le Pen was more than 4 points behind Macron, which was at the low end of pre-election poll averages. Admittedly this deviation is still well within sampling error, but those who hoped for a French version of “shy Trump” poll respondents will be disappointed.

However, other factors make clear that Le Pen is very much a real contender. The first is that the the rabidly anti-immigrant Zenmour’s voters have no where else to go and were certain to back Le Pen independent of his endorsement. Center-right Pécresse recommends that her fans vote for Macron. Pécresse has been making anti-immigrant dog whistles, so I would not expect all of her supporters to go for Macron.

YouGov, which recall was the one pollster to predict that the Brexit referendum would succeed, and has continued to be very reliable in the UK, finds only a 2% margin for Macron in a second round, which New Statesman called “a statistical dead heat”. YouGov also looked at how voters for the other candidates are likely to break in the second round. One key finding is that a substantial proportion of Mélenchon voters would back Le Pen in a second round. From New Statesman:

However, YouGov projected that Zenmour would come in at 13% when he garnered only 7% while it forecast Mélenchon at only 16%, versus the 22% he scored yesterday. Even though YouGov anticipates Mélenchon voters will split 55% Macron v. 45% Le Pen, that’s way short of the pretty much 100% of Zenmour followers going for Le Pen.

New Statesman nevertheless argues that Macron has topped out, while Le Pen has more potential headroom:

“All our data suggests the second round is now too close to call,” said Paul Hilder, the founder of Datapraxis. “Le Pen’s reserves – people on the fence for the second round, but who think Macron would be worse – are more positive about her and could mobilise more easily, while Macron’s supposed reserves – many left voters amongst them – mostly hate him too. He is close to his ceiling, but she has room to grow. Whatever happens, this will be the best result ever for the French far right.”

Now consider the wild cards:

The debate. At the end of the first round in 2017, Le Pen did better against Macron than she did yesterday, less than 3% behind then versus over 4% now. But she had a disastrous debate performance and got only 34% in the second round. Le Pen has allegedly greatly improved since then as a politician. But from what I can tell from the press, she still gets prickly when asked about Putin,1 and if she defaults to that in a debate, it’s pretty sure to hurt her.

Sounds of energy pain from Germany. France gets less than 20% of its gas from Russia, so immediately, its biggest exposure is to diesel shock, which will still hit fishermen, truckers, and commuters with long drives. However, Germany’s tiered energy emergency scheme calls for businesses to suffer cutbacks early on and some major firms are warning of large, permanent losses. A big slowdown in Germany would have to pull France down too. Loud warnings that dark economic times are coming soon to Germany could cool already tepid enthusiasm for Macron.

French NATO officials or diplomatic types being captured by Russia or found dead at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol.

Everything in Mariupol is a bit fuzzy but from the best I can infer, about 4000 Ukrainian troops remain and they have been pushed back into the industrial areas of town near the port, with the biggest holdout group at the enormous Azavstal iron and steel works. Macron had called Putin twice about a “humanitarian” evacuation, the second time on March 29. Putin agreed, on the condition that any armed forced members lay down their arms. That was a non-starter.

In the meantime, Ukraine has attempted a number of helicopter rescues of the factory, with if I am counting correctly, five shot down. At this point, helicopters and helicopter pilots are scarce resources for Ukraine, so whoever they are trying to extract from the factory is high value. There was a crazy-sounding report yesterday, except it did come from the Russian Ministry of Defense and the MoD strikes me as too unimaginative to have come up with the “I am maniac” message from a cargo ship attempting to evacuate members of the Azov Battalion from the steel factory.

Now what does this have to do with France? There are reports and images of one of the downed helicopters having two dead men with French ID. The rumor is that there are other furriners in that factory. A Russian Duma deputy winked and nodded that 100 might be a good number, that they were NATO instructors, and there were daily negotiations with them about their exit. Clearly there is a fundamental impasse if these talks have been going on that long.

If these non-Ukraine operatives are indeed NATO employees, as opposed to mercenaries, this would put a lot of egg on the face of NATO and the individual countries that sponsored them. It would also explain why Russia has not stormed the factory. These targets would have huge value to them alive, both as a discussion topic at the UN Security Council and later in Russia’s planned war crimes trials.

And if these trapped men of mystery are captured before the election and are French and operating in some sort of official capacity, that won’t help Macron.

So stay tuned! A lot can happen in the next two weeks.


1 Putin said something taken as nice about her, “She’s a woman of her convictions” (mind you, the same could be said of Russia’s current number one enemy Victoria Nuland) and a Russian bank lent Le Pen’s campaign money, which is widely depicted as tantamount to Putin lending her money, when Putin is not personally responsible for every action taken in Russia.

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  1. Steve H.

    The rear-view mirror can present a sharper image. When Macron was sitting at the big table with Putin, it seemed like he was the sensible European looking for a peaceful solution. Now he looks like a war pig covering his ass, which was always the more likely reasoning.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Actually, I think he was then seeking a peaceful solution. But he couldn’t even revive Minsk, which was basically a de-escalation rather than a lasting solution. Zelensky rejected that on February 15. And Macron’s talk with Putin went on for 6 hours, so I assume they circled about NATO, which Macron sure couldn’t deliver (and I doubt Putin expected him to but may have quizzed him on what he expected Russia to do given the givens).

      But Macron despite occasional displays of spine (recall him being willing to challenge some of the UK’s antics during Brexit), always falls into line in the end.

      1. Abs

        Nonetheless, I think it is still good he shows he has a spine. In today’s world that’s worth something I think.

    2. Acacia

      if these trapped men of mystery are captured before the election and are French and operating in some sort of official capacity, that won’t help Macron.

      And especially if, by chance, Macron and/or Elysée has at any point denied that French have been operating in Ukraine. Of course, it remains to be seen which NATO personnel are involved, if any, but denials that morph into lies don’t play very well when there’s a close election looming.

  2. Viscaelpaviscaelvi

    Two questions:
    What are the prospects for Le Pen stirring serious trouble within NATO, and how far could her go in her bid to detach from it?
    Is there a chance that Orban’s victory, combined with Le Pen’s if it eventuates, would make the EU change course, somehow?
    And a comment:
    I thought that I would never say anything like this, but for the first time ever, something in me is wanting Le Pen to win. And I assure you, this is absolutely extraordinary for many, many reasons. Zero sympathy for anything that she represents, but mate, this is where we are, at the moment, and I dislike the situation to the point of accepting anything that I can perceive as weakening US plans for the world.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Both your questions are over my pay grade, but I will take a stab.

      For NATO, each member state contributes troops and I believe leases bases for free. They are also supposed to contribute 2% of GDP but nobody really does. Lotta fakery in the numbers of the countries that look like they do.

      NATO members are now emptying their pantries of all Soviet-ish materiel and some selected new stuff to go to Ukraine. Russia now has enough control of the air plus has blown out most fuel depots that any new stuff will be blown up, captured and/or not useful because no gas. But this plus the perceived Russian threat will lead to be calls to spend more on US arms. Le Pen could say no.

      Regarding Orban, Le Pen could throw more of a spanner by defying some of the secondary sanctions (recall France is now but no one is making much noise about it, French firms not withdrawn from Russia) or buy agreeing to Russia “buy gas in roubles” mechanism. That is not part of US sanctions because the dollar is not involved and each country can decide on its own, but the US would go nuts. The EU is planning to punish Hungary by denying all sorts of EU level monies to Hungary for buying Russian energy. They don’t dare do that to France because it would legitimate her claims that the EU is bad for France and France should leave.

      1. Irrational

        But the EU is already trying to deny all sorts of money to Hungary because of the “rule of law” spat. I have not dug into how much the incremental punishment is, but will attempt to dive into it. Orban may think it worth it.
        As for me, I can relate to Viscaelpaviscaelvi’s sentiment – our dear leaders are so gung-ho for war and resistant to alternative narratives that I am hoping Hungary and France throw a little grit in the gears. I also never thought I would say this.

    2. Rui

      Hi, Viscaelpaviscaelvi, please see my reply further down. I was replying to you but misplaced the reply. I share your astonishment of finding part of myself wanting Le Pen to win.

  3. Louis Fyne

    here is the interview with a commander of Chechan forces with the allegation of western personnel in Mariupol.

    beyond the interview, everything else is in a big fog until Gary Powers II shows up


    “I would give them advice: don’t get on helicopters. Better hang out the [white] flag, come to us.”
    State Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov in an interview with RT correspondent Vlad Andritsa about NATO instructors stuck in Mariupol at Azovstal:

    1. Hickory

      That Chechen or Russian dude just keeps grinning the whole time. He knows his side’s sitting pretty. Must be a good feeling.

      1. Tom Stone

        There is the possibility that the furriners at the Azovstal factory will be executed by banderites and the killings blamed on Russia.
        Hard core rightwingers are no more rational than the most extreme members of Al-Quaeda.

        That place is a horror to assault,even using your very best forces with all the support possible it’s going to be a very expensive fight in terms of losses.

        1. Ctesias

          Batches of marines are currently surrendering. But It’s obvious that Russia will show no such mercy on the Azov battalion. They are all doomed and know it too, so they will fight to the last man standing and may even take NATO advisors hostage as a last resort, if they really happen to be there.
          It’s not entirely clear yet if Russia will want to take the Azov steel factory through conventional means, which would be extremely costly and time consuming. I’ve even heard the suggestion that they contemplate drowning the place (apparently there are 8 stories deep underground bunkers and tunnels). If something like that were to happen, we’ll never know about those alleged NATO advisors or embedded French legion personnel.

          In other news, the Guardian reporting on “Last marines defending Mariupol ‘running out of ammunition’”. It’s just so amazing that they are able to publish 20 paragraphs on Mariupol’s last stand without even once mentioning the Azov batallion. Its existence is totally blacked out in western msm reporting.


          1. Polar Socialist

            Without going into nasty details, there are many ways of getting people out of underground structures, if you control the above and know where the tunnels are. Deny food. Deny light. Deny air. Use thermobaric grenades.

            There was also an attempt to break out of the Azovmash, and apparently small groups of Ukrainians managed to “get out” so the road to north is now closed temporarily while these stragglers are dealt with.

            All and all the final collapse of Ukrainians in Mariupol seems to be quite close now.

            1. Soredemos

              Apparently Russia is waiting for Mariupol to be fully cleared to initiate phase 2 and bring the hammer down fully on the Donbass front. I wonder if they mean literally cleared of all opposition, or if they just mean the streets effectively cleared, but the underground pockets left to starve.

              ‘elensky (remember: Z has been canceled) keeps telling the media the next week will be a big battle. Ukraine is well aware of what’s heading their way.

              1. Polar Socialist

                There’s been several news today that close to 300 Ukrainian Marines have surrendered in Mariupol, apparently running out of ammunition, food and medical supplies.

                That’s a big chunk of the remaining Ukrainian forces giving up, if true. Some exited Donbass commentators are already assuming there are only hours left to what they call the liberation of Mariupol. I have my doubts.

                1. Soredemos

                  I think you might be conflating two related stories. 270 Ukrainian marines surrendered a week ago. This seems to be separate from the new Guardian piece about marines running out of ammo.

                  1. Polar Socialist

                    Nope. In the morning (Mariupol time) there was a report of 160 surrendered marines, and in the evening another batch of “more than 100”. It might have been the same lot, though.

                    On the other hand, Russian MoD is now reporting that during the night about 100 Ukrainians in vehicles marked with “Z” tried to dash out of Mariupol (from Azovmash factory area), but were tracked and stopped. Half of them died, half laid down their weapons, a few still on the run.

                    But yes, it’s really hard to find out any verified info among all the rumors.

                    1. Soredemos

                      Yeah, now I’ve seen those reports. What’s left of their defense is collapsing like dominoes

          2. Soredemos

            I like how the claim that the Russians are burning civilian casualties in a mobile crematorium to try and cover up the evidence has conveniently made another appearance. This was trotted out as an accusation early in the invasion, before mysteriously disappearing when it came time for Bucha to be strewn with bodies.

            We really are, incredibly, in a worse propaganda environment than 2003 Iraq.

  4. Louis Fyne

    here is a Le Figaro reporter saying that according to his source, US and UK special operations forces have been in Ukraine since the start of the war.


    La visite de Boris Johnson à Kiev confirme la place de Londres comme premier allié de l’Ukraine. “Les unités d’élite des forces spéciales SAS sont présentes en Ukraine depuis le début de la guerre, de même que les Delta américaines”, confie une source française du renseignement.

    “Les Russes ne l’ignorent pas, ils savent ce qu’est la guerre secrète”, ajoute la source.

    1. Susan the other

      It has been suggested but with no details. It wasn’t just NATO missile sites. It certainly makes sense that we (mercenaries) encroached on eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea coast relentlessly until Russia could no longer ignore us. And all the too-acurate predictions by the Biden administration that Russia was building up its forces for war in Ukraine… how did they deduce that? They deduced it because they were blatantly doing the same thing first. Not a word here in the US – the only indication that this was indeed the plan was Anthony Blinkin’s letter in response to Lavrov which was published by a fascist news outlet in Spain. It was a virtual declaration of war in slightly obscure language. But not that obscure. We started this war. Imo it was more or less to prevent the EU from aligning with Russia and China in any economically significant way. Ever. And to gain access to Russian oil.

    2. Renné

      Yes Boris in Ukraine was very usual. Other sources suggest same that Mariupol was primary reason for visit.

  5. Ignacio

    Most important risk for Macron I gather is outcome. If those that wouldn’t like Le Pen winning stay at home he is in trouble. Any world on deplorables or too many signs of moral superiority and he is done.

    The PS and RP sinking is remarkable indeed.

  6. David

    To begin to understand these results, you have to realise that the vast majority of French people (at least 70% in one poll) did not want a rematch between Macron and Le Pen. To avoid that, there had to be a plausible third figure to spoil the picture. At the beginning, most people expected that this figure would be Pecresse, the candidate of the traditional Right. After all, even in 2017, when Fillon was under the cloud of corruption allegations, he still managed to rack up 20% in the first round. Surely Pecresse could do equally well ? It turned out not: she was an awful candidate, and began too slide ineluctably down the polls. She finished (see above) with less than 5% of the vote. So where did the odd 15% go to? Quite a lot seems to have gone to Mélenchon, in the hope that it would put him over the top. In addition, Mélenchon squeezed the votes of the minor Left candidates, including the Socialists (a disaster at 1,7%) and the Greens. According to the last polls, around 40% of Mélenchon’s likely voters voted for him for purely tactical reasons. Some of Pecresse’s likely vote also went to Macron, who increased his share of the vote this time. Zemmour took votes away from both Pecresse and Le Pen, but otherwise had much less influence on the campaign than pundits expected.

    This leaves the French electorate exactly where they didn’t want to be. It turns the second round into a contest between “Anybody but Macron” and “Anybody but Le Pen.” Those who hoped to get rid of Macron by voting for Mélenchon now have to decide what to do. Many of them will vote for Le Pen, as the designated anti-Macron candidate, many will abstain, some may hold their noses and vote Macron as the lesser of two evils. I think the NS article is correct to say that Macron is close to topping out: he’s already picked up most of the votes available on the Right, and there’s not a lot to pick up on the Left anyway. All will depend on how Mélenchon’s vote is distributed. I think there are two basic scenarios. Either enough people who detest Macron vote for Le Pen, in the knowledge that she will never have a majority in Parliament, and so will be very weak as President. Or they stay at home, in which case Macron will win. So the Abstention Party holds all the cards.

    Don’t be misled by people claiming that this is some kind of extreme right-wing surge. It’s not. The candidates who did best – Le Pen, Mélenchon, even Macron in some ways – had strong personal followings and came from outside traditional politics. The establishment parties – the Socialists, the Greens, the Republicans – were annihilated, able to muster scarcely more than 10% between them. A journalist and TV pundit beat them all handily. So it’s the System vs. those who present themselves as from outside the System, and the latter are winning by miles. Secondly, there are two Frances here. Macron won in the cities, among the wealthy and the professional class, Le Pen among the small towns, the countryside and the poor. Macron had the votes of those who have benefited from his reign, and Le Pen the votes of those who didn’t. There are a lot more of the latter than the former: the question is whether enough of them will turn out for Le Pen, or whether they will stay at home.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I hope Terry chimes in sometime with his input to the polling. This election seems like it will be all about intensity of dislike for the other candidate, and nothing else.

      I wonder of Le Pen will shift gears before the second round. I recall seeing an analysis a few years ago that indicated that a lot of NF supporters were working class leftists, disillusioned with the traditional left. I wonder if that is tapped out, or if she could attract more Melanchon voters. Or she could just go even further in detoxifying her image. I’ve noticed that the harder left here have split over Ukraine – the pragmatic SF has gone all anti Russian (although not so hysterically as others), while the traditional hard left have gone the other way. Time will tell which is the best approach I suppose.

    2. harrybothered

      This leaves the French electorate exactly where they didn’t want to be. It turns the second round into a contest between “Anybody but Macron” and “Anybody but Le Pen.”

      This sounds distressingly familiar. “Anybody but Clinton,” “Anybody but Trump,” and then “Anybody but Biden.” 2016, 2020 and rumored to be repeated in 2024.

    3. Ignacio

      You see? I mistakenly interpreted that ‘abstain’ would favour Le Pen but it could be the contrary according to your analysis. I am still surprised about how low have fallen the traditional parties. Socialists down to less than 2%. Wow!

  7. Adam1

    While the % differential between gasoline and diesel can be quite volatile, in recent years it’s been fairly close to about 10% higher for diesel. In the past 2 months that spread has shot up to 20% (here in the US) and I’d suspect it’s due to those tight inventories that are only going to get tighter with Russian sanctions. If diesel is a sore point for the French I’d suspect it’s only going to get worse between now and late April.

  8. Lex

    It seems that having to go to a second round in a relatively close contest presents great danger to Macron. This is a time when whole years pass in weeks; nothing is predictable. And whoever/whatever is under the Avostal must be extraordinarily damaging to EU players. I don’t know that the worst embarrassment has to be French, Macron may have been sent in because he’s the only one Putin will talk to at this point. I assume the Austrian PM that visited today was covering the same issues.

    Based on direct communication from ‘Kalina’, deputy commander of Azov and holed up in Avostal, things are grim. No first aid gear, limited ammunition and running out of food. Macron’s worst nightmare has to be someone from NATO with stars coming out of that hole. Not because he’s more susceptible to political damage from that than anyone else but the timing of it with Le Pen going full De Gaulle on the campaign trail.

  9. wolfepenguin

    While French NATO personnel being trotted around will probably hurt Macron, I think the real problem for Macron is pure voter apathy. Voter turnout is low, about 4.4% less so far in 2022 than in 2017 (https://www.dw.com/en/french-election-macron-le-pen-reach-second-round-as-it-happened/a-61421773), and poll accuracy depends heavily on voter turnout.

    Macron doesn’t signal enthusiasm among the French electorate such that even if people preferred him over Le Pen, they would still have to actually show up to vote (which they might not). One particular number that I think would be interesting is the Muslim vote since in 2017, 93% of the Muslim vote went to Macron, but there are indications that Muslims (rightly) feel repeatedly betrayed by “left” and “centrist” candidates that they may decide to stay home since as awful as Le Pen might be for them, they may rationally conclude to abstain. Either way, the polling data and turnout make it a straight coin toss on who takes the French presidency regardless of what happens out in Ukraine.

  10. John Beech

    Lieutenant General Cloutier is still my lead horse to be trotted out by Russia when the Nazi forces fold. Egg on President Biden’s face galore . . . enough to spread around to all at State. Bottom line? Those foolish men have put Dollar hegemony at risk for nothing. I held my nose and voted for President Trump (twice) although saying I didn’t care for him doesn’t paint a complete picture. Why vote for the orange one? Simple, it’s because I viewed HRC and her ilk in contempt and loathing. However, this level of incompetence and outright treachery by President Biden’s ‘team’ is going to seriously damage America for generations. And for what? Riches at the expense of the little people to try and join the big boy’s table? Good grief!

    Me? I cry for my country.

    1. lance ringquist

      i voted green, but if i could not, i would not have voted for another nafta democrat, trump was the lesser of two evils. so your not alone.

      the real left knows: Trump, for all his faults, poses no existential
      threat to the republic. dupes deeply underestimating the damage a
      Biden presidency will cause. The Republican Party has become what it
      is because of Democrats like Joe Biden. These Democrats are pushing
      the Republican Party further and further right, and a Biden presidency
      will make the Republican Party even more dangerous going forward. Let
      me show you how it works.

      When Americans vote for Republicans, they’re often voting against the
      consequences of the right wing policies of Democrats.


      Benjamin Studebaker

    2. TimH

      Trump killed the TPP, which would have given corporations effectively veto power over countries.HRC would have signed it.

  11. Andrew Watts

    I assume that an anti-Le Pen coalition will once again arise to defeat her in the second round. That’s how the far-right has been kept out of power so far in post-war France. It worked against Marine’s father in any case. In the event of her electoral victory I think that’ll push people to the barricades reminiscent of 1848.

    Any attempt to overthrow her will probably have Washington’s tacit support too. I always used to joke that the future was looking bright for professional revolutionaries and upwardly mobile warlords.

    Eh, it’s still pretty funny.

    1. David

      Well, keeping the extreme Right out of power in post-war France was a laudable objective, given that they were in power during the war itself, allied with the Germans. Some of their leaders were imprisoned or even executed, but the political forces they represented were still very powerful. They were based around the Church, the Army, the Banks and the old aristocratic and land-owning families, who saw the Revolution as a mistake to be corrected. They effectively overthrew the Fourth Republic in 1958 and brought De Gaulle to power, in order to prevent the independence of Algeria. When they realised that De Gaulle had tricked them, they tried to overthrow him in 1961, and made several attempts to assassinate him. On the whole, these are not people you would want in power in France. Today, there is a traditional Catholic Right still, and it retains influence, but it’s in no position to challenge the Republic. If they voted for anyone in the election, it was probably Zemmour.

      There was also a working-class based radical populist Right, and much of it, ironically, came from White Algerians who fled after independence, and settled mostly in the South, where Le Pen has a lot of support still. But this was containable until the 1990s, when the Communist Party went into a massive decline and the Socialists began the long task of committing suicide by abandoning the working class. They therefore began to shift to what was then the National Front. They were assisted by disunity on the Left that was so complete that Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, slipped into the second round against Chirac in 2002. There was a general mobilisation against Le Pen, which was fair enough, because he was the real deal, an unpleasant extreme nationalist and nostalgic for the Algérie française, an opponent of all republican values.

      We’re in a different situation now. As I explained above, the vote for Le Pen is not primarily ideological. The split is not conventional Left-Right: its, on the one hand, globalist, finance-based, professional, qualified, reasonably prosperous, city-dwelling France, versus insecure, sometimes unemployed, less well-educated, more rural and small-town France. Both Le Pen and Mélenchon, in different ways, reflected the disenchanted majority. Now Le Pen is left, and needs to attract as many of Mélenchon’s voters as she can. He opponents are not really on the Left (that scarcely exists now) but in the media, finance, the professions, and above all those who are benefiting from the way things have gone in the last five years. It’s still likely that she will lose, because the hysterical campaign against her will simply be too powerful, but even if she wins, she’ll be a lame-duck President, because she doesn’t have enough of a party behind her to win the parliamentary elections in June.

      1. José Freitas

        I am seeing tons of leftists proclaiming support for Le Pen with the hashtag#ToutSaufMacron, anything but Macron. Check out for instance Tatiana Ventôse, bona fide very young leftist influencer who campaigned for Kuzmanovic (hard core Marxist) and has just declared for Le Pen. And her followers on Twitter are not attacking her for her choice, even when disagreeing. She gas a great YT channel, Le Fil d’Actu.

        Of course, I still think it highly likely Macron will win, but it will inaugurate an era of tremendous instability and rebellion in France.

      2. Andrew Watts

        Ideologies that people fought and died for is a relic of a bygone era. That’s why most elections these days are meaningless in the context of class struggle. They’re bourgeois civil wars between the classes who benefit from the status quo and the forces of reaction who seek to undermine it and seize power. It only has the potential to dissolve the polities that are plagued by them.

        The French left doesn’t have much of a pony in this horse race, nor do young people quite frankly, but if it keeps out the Vichy right than Macron is now their only alternative outside of the barricades. The young people who overwhelmingly supported Melenchon probably did for the same reasons their counterparts rallied around Bernie here in the ‘States. The idea that Le Pen can pull any significant amount of support from Melenchon is kinda like the same nonsense that theorized that Bernie supporters would switch to Trump in any significant numbers. The unity of the right seems like it would play a larger role behind a National “Rally” victory anyway.

        The idea, or rather the vain hope, that Le Pen will be powerless if the far-right seizes control of the state seems like the same mistake a lot of Germans made in 1932.

        1. David

          As I mentioned earlier, a very large percentage of Mélenchon’s vote was tactical, by people who would never vote for him under normal circumstances, but did so precisely to avoid a Le Pen-Macron rematch. Mélenchon’s core support is probably no more than 10-12% and there is a lot of churn between LFI, the Greens and the Socialists. Once it became clear that Mélenchon had the best chance of beating Le Pen, if not Macron, then tactical voters started to swap sides. The hard-core LFI supporters will now probably abstain (they loath Macron). Many of those who voted tactically will switch to Le Pen, as part of the “Anyone But Macron” tendency. The real question is whether enough of these tactical voters will switch in that fashion. Pecresse was polling at 15% in the early days, and 10% of that went somewhere. A good part probably went to Mélenchon.

          This isn’t Germany and it isn’t 1932. Hitler was Chancellor (Head of Government) whereas Le Pen, if elected, would be Head of State. The government, in the French system, is a separate entity, headed by a Prime Minister. The system only really works when the President and the Prime Minister come from the same party, or are at least politically compatible. On a number of occasions in the last few decades, the President’s party has lost control of Parliament, and the President has had to appoint an opposition figure as Prime Minister. This is what’s called “cohabitation”, and it’s likely to happen this time, irrespective of who wins. There is no way that Le Pen can get enough deputies elected to Parliament to have a majority: I’m not even sure they’ll be able to put up a candidate in every constituency. The orthodox parties (who can expect to do much better in the parliamentary elections than they did yesterday) will use every trick in the book to keep the RN from winning. In 2017, the RN polled 13% in the first round, but ultimately only gained 8 of 577 seats. A majority, even in a coalition, seems impossible. The result, almost certainly, would be a PM from another party, and there would be a savage struggle for power between the Elysée and the Matignon. In the French system, the formal powers of the President are quite limited, and in previous cohabitations, the President’s wings have been severely clipped. Or the leaders of the main parties might just refuse to participate in the government, forcing a political crisis in the hope that Le Pen would have to resign.

          1. Andrew Watts

            I’m sorry David, but the fact that Le Pen is in the second round again is a major defeat for the political forces you think could delegitimize her rule. Fascists don’t generally care about the niceties of democratic governance as their history would indicate and as a few retired generals demonstrated when they threatened Macron with a coup.

            Everybody seems to think that political center will hold under those circumstances, but I think it’s guaranteed to fall apart. A National “Rally” victory would galvanize the heirs of European fascism in a way we haven’t seen since the 1930s regardless.

            1. KD

              My take (as an outsider) is that despite the “National Front” now “National Rally” being pretty hard-core under Jean-Marie Le Pen, and bitterly opposed to the Gaullists over the (predictable) betrayal over the Algerian Question, and the utter callousness of the Gaullists over the plight of Pied-Noirs, if you look at candidate Marine Le Pen, it sounds like what happens to Gaullism when you mix it with a quart of water and leave it on the kitchen counter over night.

              Granted, there may be some crypto-current that as an outsider I am missing, but if you could bring back the General, he would probably come out to the right of Zemmour. If you want to get hysterical, it would be about France being delayed in the inevitable process of turning into morbidly obese hypnotized subjects compulsively shopping at Walmart and McDonald’s while reciting Atlanticist talking points. (After all, the real threat of “fascism” is the thought that the State or national identity might get in the way of some psychopathic corporation’s ability to profit off selling fake identities and poisonous garbage to the lost, atomized, and rootless.)

  12. Susan the other

    Thanks for this summary. Interesting. I hope Marine LePen wins, simply because Macron seems as loose as Sarkozy. What do they all think they are doing? Politics is as nonsensical as mobile bitcoin mines using natgas flares.

  13. KD

    Thread jacking so ban me, but I am interested in any takes on how LePen would actually govern if she wins, to what extent she would break with Macron on NATO or any of it.

    I would also think she should tack to the economic Left as hard as possible to pick up as much Melenchon/working class support going into the polls. Time to start working with the Communists in the fashion of De Gaulle in 1968. I think Macron going to have the Bourgeois Right/PMC vote locked down tight.

  14. Louis Fyne

    To be Machiavellian, LePen should hope that she loses. the next 5 years will be a train wreck for France, the EU, and the Euro

  15. Rui

    Funny you would say that. I am flabbergasted with myself but I found myself rooting for Le Pen yesterday. It is shocking for me. I consider myself a humanist, left wing, can’t stand people who are racist, homophobic, authoritatian…
    And yet, a friend asked me today if I was rooting for Le Pen, he got that feeling yesterday while we were following the results.
    As with you, this is absolutely extraordinary for me.
    I think, irrationally, I want to see NATO and the EU punished. I now see them as a greater danger to my life than the likes of Orban.
    That’s another one I always wanted to see gone and found myself satisfied he had won re-election.
    This is absolutely bonkers for me, but these are the emotions going through me.
    I’m portuguese, btw.

    1. larry

      Rui, sorry to seem so ignorant, but why do you think that NATO and the EU are a greater danger to your life than the likes of Orban?

      1. Rui

        Hi, Larry.
        Right now I feel powerless.
        First it was Covid and for 2 years I have tried to fight the ‘consensus’ of letting people die, feeling angry that reason and educated management have been lacking.
        Now it’s the European ‘consensus’ against Russia, the blatant lies and defense of nazism, the absolute abandonment of democratic values, and for the first time in my life feeling I better keep my mouth shut, otherwise I will be made to pay. This is a enormous shift, feeling I have to keep my opinions to myself, actually having friends distance themselves because they are totally enthraled by the oficial narrative and can’t stomach my dissent.
        I feel that I no longer live in a sovereign country and that the EU project has somehow served it’s purpose and moved fully to an authoritarian way of doing things, with litle or now consideration for the average citizen.
        This actually started with the debt crisis. But it has now crystalized in a extreme-neoliberal consensus with no dissenting voices.
        I feel the only way to somehow break tgis consensus is disruption. There can’t be a unipolar EU or world. For the sake of democracy and human rights there must be challenges to the status quo.
        Van de Leyen and Borrell are mediocre agents to the neo-liberal order. The move to a federal EU must be stopped.
        The EU and NATO are imposing decisions that will further impoverish the average citizen. We – in my name – are destroying yet another country. While in the Iraq war 20 years ago there was dissent, there is none now. We are supposed to go along with what is going on. I feel angrily grateful to Rússia to do the dirty work of militarily face off the nazi forces in Ukraine.
        This is all bonkers.
        NATO and the EU, should they prevail, would further erode democracy in Europe and empoverish it’s people. It must not happen. So I welcome disruption to this consensus.
        Not sure if I was able to put my (emitional) reasoning forward.

        1. caucus99percenter

          My views have similarly evolved in recent years. The degree of Gleichschaltung of German mainstream media, culture, and political views keeps reaching new heights; the window of opinions one is allowed to express in public — or for that matter, in private, since the formerly absolute principle of secrecy of private communications (Briefgeheimnis und Fernmeldegeheimnis) have been de facto breached and abolished — becomes narrower and narrower.

          For decades I considered myself “counterculture / alternative left” and “Green”; now I am forced to recognize that the German Greens and their cultural and media penumbra are just another neolib-neocon Atlanticist asset channeling the U.S. “Blob” (a.k.a. Deep State).

          1. Rui

            And all this is happening as if we didn’t have real universal challenges like climate change and COVID and are instead wasting ever decreasing resources in stupid, criminal wars and armement.
            Here in Portugal more and more kids lack teachers and an increasing share of the population, over 10% now, does not have a primary care doctor assigned. And now the government is refusing to increase wages to match even half of inflation, or, in other words, everyone is getting a, what, 5% pay cut? And this a supposedly ‘socialist’ government.
            When the left stops being an alternative, people will go for disruption and ever more extreme candidates.
            I have always voted to the left. I think at the ballot I would not vote Le Pen. But I have questions if I would have the stomach to vote Macron.

            1. KD

              People tend to knock the KPD (the first anti-fascist party) for taking the Hitler now, Communist Revolution after position against the Social Democrats, but it certainly proved out in East Germany.

  16. Matthew G. Saroff

    I am glad that I am not a French voter, because it is a tough choice.

    Macron is aggressively Islamophobic, so the choice is between, as I have noted:

    Unlike the last time though, Macron has shown himself to be contemptuous of the average working Frenchman, pro-police brutality, pro anti-Semite traitor Philippe Pétain, and aggressively Islamophobic.

    If you have noticed that most of this description, except perhaps for the first bit, sounds a lot like the positions of Marine Le Pen, you have been paying attention.

    It makes this a tough call.

  17. ChrisRUEcon

    I’m not so evil as to want to be right badly enough to want Le Pen to win … but I called this when Macron got elected … #Macron2017 seemed destined to lead to #LePen2022. Don’t count her out. The agent provocateur in me hit the like button hard on this … LOL (via #Twitter)

  18. Judy Lovelace

    The MoD strikes me as too unimaginative to have come up with the “I am maniac” message from a cargo ship

    I understand the apparently bizarre callsign from the cargo ship was in fact due to a mistranslation or mishearing of lighthouse (маяк, mayak) as maniac (маньяк, man’yak), and the message should have been interpreted as “lighthouse, i am coming for you”.

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