For more than a year polls have suggested Marine Le Pen will come in first in the first round of French Presidential elections on April 23, 2017.
Who will come in second?
A poll on Thursday confirms that the National Front (FN) leader will advance to the second round, securing 25 to 28% in the first round (Radio Classique/Les Echos). She will thus repeat her father’s triumph of 2002, only with nearly double the votes.
The question is whom she will face in the second round.
The only candidate that can do better than Marine Le Pen in the first round is Bordeaux’s Mayor, Alain Juppé. Polls suggest he is the only candidate that could reach an excess of 30%.
But, Les Républicains are embroiled in highly contested primaries which Juppé is not certain to win. Juppé is a former Prime Minister (1995-1997) and veteran cabinet minister, having held various cabinet posts, including that of the environment, foreign policy, and defense. He has served under both the Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac administrations.
There are no fewer than seven candidates contesting for that job, including former President Sarkozy.
Marine Le Pen as leader of the opposition
Front National will almost certainly secure the place of the government “in waiting.” Front National (FN) already came in first in the European Parliament elections of 2014 and regional elections of 2015.
Unlike her father, Marine Le Pen has purged the party of explicitly anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric, claiming to represent a “pure” sovereigntist movement true to the De Gaulle tradition. But, the local elections of 2015 bring a pattern to the forefront.
Her anti-establishment, anti-Europe, and anti-immigration rhetoric comes at a cost. There will be no political force willing to work with the far-right in the second round. All mainstream parties will rally behind the candidate – any candidate – running against Marine Le Pen.
The second gets the prize
Whoever comes first or second in April against Le Pen will most likely take the top job in May. In a contest in which the second comes first, the center-right and the center-left are fighting for survival.
The odds are against the center-left. The center-left has three informal candidates.
The incumbent President François Hollande does not appear to have a chance to make it beyond the first round and would only get 12 to 16%. His former economic adviser and Minister of the Economy, Emannual Macron, is far more popular. He is also more popular than Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
But, will the Socialist Party endorse a man who runs on the back of his own platform and his own movement? That is politically unlikely.