Will the presidential election be an anti-Le Pen or anti-Macron referendum?

MAINTENANCE – By refusing, or almost, to descend into the arena before the first round, the President of the Republic takes the risk of transforming the ballot into a plebiscite for or against him, analyzes David Desgouilles.

David Desgouilles is a columnist at Marianne. He published Skid (ed. du Rocher, 2017) and Their lost wars(ed. du Rocher, 2019).


LE FIGARO. – Only one meeting, rare trips, no debate with the other candidates… Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the President of the Republic seems determined not to really enter the arena before the first round, and to bet on his only record. So, can the ballot turn into a plebiscite for or against him?

David DESGOUILLES. – His refusal to participate in France 2’s political program “Élysée 2022”, on April 5, reinforces the idea that indeed, Emmanuel Macron wishes to stay ahead of the other candidates, which can be interpreted as ‘arrogance. The program in question did not organize debates between the candidates and the argument of the inaudible nature of a rat race could not be invoked. A continuous news channel indicated on Tuesday April 5 that Emmanuel Macron was not satisfied with a report from the channel and had taken it as an excuse not to come. If so, the incumbent is playing a dangerous game.

I would add that the French have today clearly identified that the negotiations on the Russian-Ukrainian war depended less on the Elysée than on other countries, such as Israel or Turkey. The flag effect has undoubtedly run out of steam. In short, the situation of the outgoing president should lead him to show humility.

“This election is a social referendum, you have been warned,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon dropped in a meeting. This potential referendum» for or against Macron could it take place around economic issues, as hoped by the candidate of the Insoumis and to a lesser extent Marine Le Pen? Or on the civilizational question as Eric Zemmour would like?

Economic and social questions have supplanted the civilizational question for a few weeks, no doubt when the popular classes entered the countryside. Of course, the popular categories are not deaf to the civilizational question, but they do not focus on it, which probably did Éric Zemmour a disservice. Because for the candidate Reconquête!, this theme comes before all the others. Jean-Luc Mélenchon was thus able to wake up part of the working classes located in the big cities. Marine Le Pen was able to reconnect with this segment of the population who lives in the rest of the country.

As there cannot be two Gods, there cannot be two devils. But the “devil” of this campaign was Éric Zemmour.

David Desgouilles

Marine Le Pen has an advantage: she insists on the four insecurities: economic, social, but also security and identity, as she explains in an interview with Le Figaro, published on April 5. It is undoubtedly for this reason that she is the best placed to face Emmanuel Macron in the second round, and that she is also the best placed in the second round polls against the outgoing president. This can be explained by the fact that it has been developing for months or even since 2017 a strategy mirroring that of Emmanuel Macron, based on the theory of the two blocs (the “elite bloc” against the “popular bloc” to quote Jérôme Sainte-Marie). When we look in more detail at the Macron-Le Pen second-round polls, this jumps out at you. The more qualified and affluent you are, the more you vote Emmanuel Macron, and vice versa for Marine Le Pen. We would be witnessing a good part of a class vote. Can the two-round voting system on the mode “in the first round, we choose, in the second, we eliminate”, turn against Emmanuel Macron when he had benefited from it five years ago? This will depend above all on the mobilization, and on the content of this class vote.

A Cevipof poll for Le Monde shows a strong transfer of votes from potential voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Fabien Roussel to Marine Le Pen in the event of a Le Pen-Macron second round. Should we understand that the expression “republican dam” against Le Pen no longer has any meaning for many French people? Will the second round also be a referendum “for or against” Le Pen?

On the one hand, there is the class vote that we have just mentioned and another phenomenon which comes to reinforce it: as there cannot be two Gods, there cannot be two devils. But the “devil” of this campaign was Éric Zemmour.

Will we be able to give Marine Le Pen back the devil’s label from 8:01 p.m. Sunday evening, as the Reconquest candidate suggests! ?

This will depend above all on the quality of the campaign of the RN candidate and, obviously, on the behavior of Emmanuel Macron. If the latter pursues his strategy of technocratic arrogance and moral superiority, he may fear enormous disappointment, and perhaps even defeat.

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Will the presidential election be an anti-Le Pen or anti-Macron referendum?


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