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French Presidential Elections in 2022

“Imagine, there are elections, and we already know the outcome.”

Should Emmanuel Macron manage to enter the runoff election on April 24, 2022, then the chances are high that he will be the next president of France. But this he still must accomplish.

Photo Credit: Office of the President of the United States via Twitter - October 29, 2021

The first round of the next presidential elections in France is scheduled for April 10, 2022. If no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round, there will be a runoff between the two first-placed candidates on April 24

The current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, entered the political game as a political visionary, who wanted to overcome the political left-right divide or polarization in his country. His approach was to establish and to develop further a new and more innovative political center. The question, of course, remains whether he really succeeded in redefining in a good and forward-looking way the political “vacuum” in the middle. As the commentator Pawel Zerka put it so exactly: “This would not be Macron’s fault alone, as French disillusionment with politics is longstanding. But it is he who disrupted the country’s political system four years ago by claiming the left-right divide to be obsolete – but then failing to fill the vacuum”.

Macron can refer to a quasi “bourgeois” career, held the position of Minister of Economics (2014-2016) under the Socialist President François Hollande, was even a member of the Socialist Party for a couple of years. In 2016, Macron founded the party “La République EnMarche!”, which is designed to implement a centrist and pro-European agenda, positions itself in the French political system “center to center-right”, and is being considered as a manifestation of political liberalism.

Macron arranged for two political master-strikes. He won the French presidential elections in May 2017. Shortly afterward, in the French parliamentary elections in June 2017, Macron’s party won an absolute majority in parliament with 53.4% of the seats. Macron therefore succeeded in bridging a “unified government” between the presidency and parliament. As an expression of his political orientation, Macron is also considered to be the first President of France to use the English language in public on relevant occasions.

The great inner-domestic rival of Emmanuel Macron is the current political figurehead of the French far-right, Marine Le Pen, daughter of the right-wing politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. Marine took over the chairmanship of the National Front Party in 2011, which was finally reconstituted in June 2018 as the Rassemblement National (“National Assembly”). The founder of the Front National was Jean-Marie Le Pen, and here a serious family father-daughter conflict took place in public. As a result of a reorganization of the party, Marine asked her father Jean-Marie to quit the party, and because of “serious misconduct” Jean-Marie was actually excluded in August 2015. Marine Le Pen has already run for the presidential election twice without success, in 2012, and made it into the runoff election in 2017, but was seriously beaten by Emmanuel Macron with a share of only 33.9% of the votes.

The Rassemblement National is considered to be a political movement at the interface of right-wing populism and “right-wing extremism”, and is also known in French as “extrême droite”. The self-description of the Rassemblement National reads almost cynically as “patriotic”, “populist” and “sovereignist”, supposedly wanting to be “neither right nor left”. The political demands follow a usual (almost “boring”) right-wing script of right-wing thinking. “French first” is at the center of the focus. Protectionism is required for the economy, along with a nationalization of key industries and the introduction of protective tariffs, for example for agriculture in France. A strict course is being demanded for immigration issues. When it comes to citizenship, “jus soli” and dual citizenships (except for EU citizens) should be abolished. 

In terms of foreign policy, a ruthless EU-critical course is being pursued, the European Union is to become a “Europe of Nations” and every nation-state is to regain more national sovereignty. But leaving the EU is no longer a general demand. In order to jointly underline positions critical of the EU, it was no problem for Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to show himself in public with Marine Le Pen in Budapest in last October. The Rassemblement National also calls for France to withdraw from several agreements, such as the Schengen area (or its renegotiation), the EURO zone and NATO. Furthermore, the Rassemblement National stands for “Law and Order” and a further enforcement of penalties.

In the current polls for the upcoming presidential election, Emmanuel Macron is clearly in the lead. A quarter of French voters would give him a relatively stable vote in the first ballot. The economic data are reasonably good for France, and France mastered the corona crisis correspondingly successfully in comparison with the other EU partners. The anti-corona measures have effectively shown positive results in France. Nevertheless, Macron faces the political dilemma that the “right half of the political center” is more satisfied with him than the “left half of the political center”.

The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has slipped to around 15% in the polls since the summer. But this also has something to do with the fact that the right-wing populist camp in France is currently strangely divided, and Le Pen is facing internal competition from Éric Justin Léon Zemmour , a political journalist eccentric who is often being described as far-right, but who is now on a par with Le Pen in the polls. Only rather recently did Zemmour officially decide that he will participate in the political race for the French presidency. The political left in France, however, appears to have no chance for the time being with its ambitions for the race for the French presidency.

“Imagine, there are elections, and we already know the outcome.”

Will Emmanuel Macron’s presidential election victory in the coming year 2022 be a safe bet? Does Macron make it into a second round of voting against a far-right candidate, as in 2017, when he increased from 24 to 66% of the votes from the first to the second voting cycle , his election victory appears to be already mapped out. The political reflex against right-wing populism and right-wing extremism is too strong in France’s democracy. The middle classes clearly define difficult political terrain for right-wing populists. Macron’s strategic Achilles tendon and vulnerability could, however, be precisely the result of an insufficient voter mobilization, particularly among voters with a more left-wing orientation. Therefore, a horror scenario would be that Macron fails to get a first or second placement in the first ballot round, and there than may be a runoff between two far-right candidates. Election results should not be misunderstood as being pre-decided. But of course, also everything can be different, since the most recent opinion polls see also the politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan rising, who is a representative of the “Debout-la-France” party, which can be best described as a conservative party in a certain post-Gaullist tradition. So perhaps there is the surprise of a run-off between Macron and Dupont-Aignan. Therefore, the actual outcome of the first round of elections on April 10, 2022, will be so all-important.

About the Author:    
David F.J. Campbell
Founder & Director
David is an Associate Professor for Comparative Political Science at the University of Vienna. 

His thematic core focuses are quality of democracy in a global perspective, knowledge and innovation in a knowledge economy and knowledge democracy, where David co-created (together with Elias G. Caraynnis) the concept and theory of the Quadruple and Quintuple Helix Innovation Systems. Additional themes of his are interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the sciences and arts.