WHEN Emmanuel Macron scraped through the 2017 French election to take the Presidency, the less politically astute amongst the commentariat suggested the far-right had been curbed in France.
Though the polls have been narrow for a fair while – Marine Le Pen has always polled above 15 per cent and rarely faced a threat from below – Macron’s vulnerability is now on full show.
When the Russia-Ukraine war kicked off in late February, Macron had a double digit lead and was, perhaps, looking forward to a ‘rallying round the flag’ effect since enjoyed by the likes of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
But instead, Le Pen’s polling has only grown as the weeks have gone by.
There are many factors for this.
The first is that the right have been fairly strong in France for the last decade. It was not long ago that Eric Zemmour was polling strongly – his support appears to have dissipated to his far-right rival.
The more important reason is that Macron has taken this election for granted.
He may have thought the surging Jean-Luc Melenchon would absorb some of the anti-establishment vote to allow him a clean run at the presidency once again.
But instead, his complacency and inability to deal with deep-rooted issues in the French economy and society have potentially damned the nation to five years of Le Pen.
Not only has he neglected his re-election efforts, but he has been battered politically by the cost of living crisis that is sweeping Europe.
Instead of holding up the few successes of his tenure, he has instead gone on the attack against Le Pen – but it appears to be having the opposite effect. No wonder she compared him to a “stunned boxer” at a recent rally.
Le Pen, meanwhile, has softened in the public’s eye. Despite sharing the same anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rhetoric as 2017, a years-long PR campaign combined with the ulta-radicalism of Zemmour have positioned her well.
As we saw with Donald Trump’s election in 2016, lukewarm centrism can only get a party so far when it is in power. Macron may pay the brutal political price for five years of ineffectiveness this month.
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