Analysis: In the presidential race, Macron can no longer count on the anti-Le Pen front

French President Emmanuel Macron, a candidate for re-election, reacts on stage after partial results in the first round of the 2022 French presidential election, in Paris, France, April 10, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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PARIS, April 10 (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron will not be able to count on the traditional anti-far-right front of French voters in the second round and will have to step up his campaign if he is to beat Marine Le Pen, who managed to soften his image.

Although Macron was expected to win a better-than-expected first-round score of 28%, improving on his result from 2017, Macron cannot count on victory: polls predict a very slim margin of victory against Le Pen in the second round of 24 april. .

In recent elections at the national, regional and municipal levels, voters on the left and right have historically united to block the far right from power, a phenomenon known as the “republican front”.

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While all the mainstream candidates, including those from the conservative Les Républicains et Socialistes party, backed Macron for the run-off on Sunday evening, it is unclear whether their voters will follow suit. Moreover, their low single-digit scores were so pitiful that their support may carry little weight.

“Among politicians, the Republican front is getting underway. It remains to be seen whether voters will follow,” said Mathieu Gallard, head of research at Ipsos France.

An Ifop poll taken outside polling stations during Sunday’s vote predicted that Macron would gain 51% of voter support within two weeks, a clear indication that the “republican front” is collapsing.

Complicating Macron’s task, Le Pen has largely abandoned his more pugnacious anti-immigration and anti-European Union rhetoric, focusing more on cost-of-living issues. Read more

Another Ifop poll in March showed less than half of French people now find her “scary”.

In her speech on Sunday, she presented herself as a unifying figure, who would heal France’s “fractures” and stem the “chaos” allegedly caused by Macron, a former banker who she said embodied the “power of money” and worked for the little.

BATTLE FOR THE LEFT

Meanwhile, Macron cannot take leftist voters for granted.

Third-placed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon urged voters not to support Le Pen, but stopped short of endorsing Macron, increasing uncertainty as to how the projected 21% of voters who supported the far left brandon will vote.

Polls show that many may decide to abstain. Read more

“Macron’s policy (…) has strengthened the far right,” voter Léa Druet, 27, told Reuters at campaign headquarters in Melenchon. She voted for Macron in 2017 and said she would abstain in the second round this month.

Other Melenchon supporters were still in limbo. “I’ll see how the next two weeks go. If the polls say 49-51, then I’ll vote Macron,” said Guillaume Raffi, 36, a music producer in Montpellier.

Macron supporters and campaign insiders say the incumbent leader will need to spend more time campaigning on the ground than he did heading into the first round if he is to counter Le Pen, who tapped into anger at the rising cost of living and deep discontent with a distant elite.

Macron admitted entering the campaign too late as he focused on dealing with the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

“In the second round, Emmanuel Macron will have to roll up his sleeves a little more than in the first,” wrote the former French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, on Twitter.

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Additional reporting by Layli Foroudi; Written by Michel Rose; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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