A Harris interactive poll has confirmed Marine Le Pen is hot on the heels of Emmanuel Macron, tightening the gap to within striking distance of her rival at next year’s presidential election.
The poll suggests the National Rally leader will join Macron in the second round – all 21 major polls this year have put the two together after the first ballot – but she would still lose by a slim margin, 46% to 54%.
Increasingly bullish Le Pen supporters see a likely collapse of the left-wing vote as their route to a not so unlikely victory. Half of lefty French voters have indicated they would not bother voting. Even in 2017, when Le Pen lost heavily to newcomer Macron turnout was at its lowest level since 1969. Many voters from the left declined to cast a ballot.
Despite the fact that Le Pen has somewhat softened her stance towards the European Union, she no longer advocates a total withdrawal from the bloc but remains firmly Eurosceptic. A Le Pen win in 2022 would send shockwaves through Brussels and across Europe.
Disturbingly regular terrorist atrocities in France – yesterday a police station employee was stabbed in the throat by a jihadist – have forced Le Pen to concentrate on radical islam and the preservation of French culture and values. She has called for an outright ban on the wearing of headscarves in public areas.
These are troubling times for Macron. He is seen to be moving to the right with a tough guy personal rebrand, but his policies remain centrist and his ferocious commitment to European integration undimmed. Arnaud Montebourg, who occupied the office of Minister of the Economy before Emmanuel Macron did in François Hollande’s government has predicted patriotic Le Pen will win in 2022 due to his successor’s “arrogant” approach.
In comments published by the Financial Times, Montebourg said Le Pen’s rise was “like the Trump phenomenon or the Brexit phenomenon”. He blasted Macron’s “oligarchic” policies and warned that the current French President “is hated because he’s arrogant”.
Macron’s Eurofanatic credentials are not doing him any favours either. With France having to contribute more to the EU budget due to the hole left by Brexit, many French voters are turning increasingly Eurosceptic. A petition has been launched demanding a referendum on France’s continued membership of the European Union in yet more positive news for Le Pen.