French President Emmanuel Macron fends off far-right challenger


(AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

Supporters of French President Emmanuel Macron celebrate reports of his victory Sunday, April 24, 2022 in Paris.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

In recent weeks, even amongst the chaos and confusion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, global attention has been on France as they prepared for their latest presidential election. In 2017, first-time candidate Emmanuel Macron and his centrist En Marche! party secured a decisive victory over far-right populist Marine Le Pen in what was a rare rebuttal of populism in the mid-2010s. Fast forward to the 2022 jungle primary, and Macron and Le Pen were scheduled to face each other for France’s top executive position yet again. And on April 24, Macron once again defeated Le Pen, winning reelection with 58.2% of the vote.

Macron and Le Pen emerged out of a crowded multi-party first-round primary, fending off lesser candidates, most notably leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. As the general election approached, Macron consistently led in polling as Le Pen was bogged down by her record, most notably for having expressed support for Russia. Ultimately, Macron was once again able to pull through, achieving a 17-point victory.

Regardless of the loss, Le Pen’s National Front party is still aiming to take a majority in June’s parliamentary primaries, as is Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise party. However, Macron’s En Marche! party is heavily favored, essentially guaranteeing he and his party have complete control for another five years.

Despite Macron’s victory, some worry that Le Pen’s improved performance in 2022 (a seven-point increase from 2017) is a sign of the future concerning France’s relationship with populism. Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the controversial founder of her party who is synonymous with far-right politics in France. With two straight trips to the second round with modest support, support for far-right populism in France seems to be growing.

Dwight Hahn, professor of political science at John Carroll University, is of the same opinion. “The 2022 presidential elections in France indicate a continuing and dramatic decline in French society for the traditional center-right and the center-left parties and an increase in support for parties that reject the centrist, pro-European Union, pro-market reform policies associated with President Emmanuel Macron.”

“Combined, the two major candidates of the far-right, Marine Le Pen (23%) and Eric Zemmour (7%) garnered some 30% of the first-round vote while the candidate of the socialist left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, came in a close third to Le Pen with 22% of the vote.

“The growth in support for the socialist left and the nationalist right implies a general dissatisfaction in France with the pro-European Union and pro-market liberal policies of French governments over the last few decades — in both center-left and center-right governments — and which were crystallized in the policies of President Macron since the beginning of his first term in 2017. Nevertheless, the French electoral system both for the presidency and the National Assembly tends to weed out the left and the right and promote the centrist position. I expect that next month’s elections for the National Assembly will keep Macron’s party in control of that body.”