Macron vs Le Pen: How will/should France and the EU react?

We can assume it is going to be a very confrontational campaign – Emmanuel Macron vs Marine Le Pen – before the second round of presidential elections. What do you think both candidate will emphasise, and as Macron is perceived as the pro-EU candidate would you say that EU leaders should openly support him or maybe it would be better if they keep some distance as Le Pen could use it? Read few comments.

Marine Le Pen vs Emmanuel Macron. Credit: https://frenchelection.online

Claudia ChwaliszFellow, Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, Consultant, Research and Strategy Consultancy Populus

I don’t think that the EU will be Macron’s key point of emphasis in the next two weeks, but I think that he will not try to play down his strong support for the EU. France is a fairly pro-European country, and only 22% of  French people support Le Pen’s proposal to leave the euro. Anyone concerned about the value of their assets and pensions will be supporting Macron. He has already received open support from EU leaders. Given he is criticised by some for his age and lack of stature, this helps him to be seen as an important leader.

As we saw in his speech after the election, Macron will try to emphasise that he brings everyone together and will encourage people from other parties to campaign as En Marche candidates in the legislative elections. He needs to reassure people he will have a stable government. Macron will need to try and rally more support from the right, as he seemed to rely more on the left for the first round, so he will need to emphasise his economic programme.

Le Pen’s key lines of attack will be about a comment Macron once made about there not being a French culture – which he later clarified, but that is irrelevant for the FN campaign. The FN will likely also attack Macron’s Rothschild banker background and bring up comments he made about Algeria, which were controversial with the ‘pieds noirs’ community. Le Pen will surely repeat that she is the candidate of “the people” and that a vote for Macron is a vote for continuity with Francois Hollande. In her speech earlier tonight she said this election was about the ‘survival of France’ – so we can expect some hyperbolic language about the end of times if Macron wins from her end.

Alice Baudry, Head of International Affairs, Institut Montaigne

Since our two finalists are obvious opponents, it is unlikely that they will change much their discourse in the 15 upcoming days. I think that they will reinforce what now appears to be their DNA: openness to Europe versus a strong rejection of its institutions and currency.

I believe MLP will continue to scapegoat the EU and emphasise the idea that EM and other elites rallying to him are miles away from what the French people want. This idea of “governing with the people” will continue to strongly benefit her image in the days to come, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon who did very well in this election has an electorate that now does not know whether it should turn to Macron or decide not to show up to the ballot at all. They may be tempted now to turn to MLP if she manages well to represent the people through an anti European and nationalist discourse.

I think that politicians across the EU calling for a Macron vote will be important signs of legitimacy for him. This may be perceived as proof of the fact he is capable of having a dialogue with leaders of this continent. On the other hand, I don’t think this will have an impact on the French electorate. During presidential elections, French citizens are obsessed with domestic issues and tend to neglect all sorts of international aspects.

Vincent Pons, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the two candidates who qualified for the second round of the French presidential election, have in common the critique of mainstream French left and right parties. Their policy platforms are antagonistic, however, which is reflected by their positioning, on the far-right and in the center, respectively. Emmanuel Macron has campaigned in favor of staying in the European Union when Marine Le Pen instead proposed to organize a referendum on exiting the euro if she were elected. The candidates of the mainstream left and right parties, which have governed the country for several decades, were both eliminated in the first round. The qualification of Macron and Le Pen announces a new structuring of political life, opposing political forces and candidates in favor of an open society (opened to immigration, Europe, globalization), as Macron, or of a closed society, as Le Pen. The open-closed divide may progressively replace the old left-right divide.

Jonah Levy, Associate Professor, Vice-Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

All indications are that Macron will win the run-off election easily. Marine Le Pen has a higher ceiling than her father, who totaled just 18% of the vote in the run-off against Jacques Chirac in 2002, but that ceiling is nowhere near 50%. Many French citizens view Marine Le Pen as an air-brushed version of her father, different in style but not substance. Already, the mainstream right and left are closing ranks behind Macron: third-place finisher, Fillon on the right and fifth-place finisher, Hamon on the left have already called on their supporters to vote for Macron, as have many leaders in both camps. Realistically, Le Pen will do well to clear 40% in the run-off.

The campaign in the next two weeks could go in any number of directions. My guess would be that rather than vaunting their own agendas, the candidates will focus on criticizing each other. Le Pen will presumably portray Macron as a creature of the political elites, spooning out the same old soup that has failed France for decades, and subjugating the nation to unelected technocrats in Brussels and to the forces of global capitalism. Macron and his supporters will counter that Le Pen is a thinly veiled racist, an economic demagogue, and a threat to democracy, whose election would only bring internal division, international isolation, and economic ruin.

No issue divides Macron and Le Pen more than Europe. Macron is an ardent Europhile, who always has an EU flag in the background at his appearances. He is, by all accounts, the most pro-European of the 11 presidential candidates, and wants to advance European integration by having a European budget and Economics Minister. By contrast, Le Pen is an insular nationalist, who has pledged to pull France out of EMU, the Schengen Zone, and — if she doesn’t get what she wants — the EU itself. For good measure, Le Pen has also pledged to withdraw France from the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and NATO integrated command.

While the EU has a clear rooting interest in France’s run-off, EU officials would do well to avoid voicing it too loudly. The EU and its officials are not setting any popularity records in France these days, where many blame the EU for economic stagnation and assaults on the French social model. What is more, French citizens, like citizens everywhere, do not like it when foreigners try to tell them how to vote. Indeed, public endorsements by EU leadership would lend credence to Le Pen’s charge that Macron is a tool of European and international financial interests.

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