Emmanuel Macron becomes President of France with 66%. What next for Marine Le Pen?

Jean-Yves Camus - 09 05 17

Despite fears that the leader of the Front National (FN) could win, the figures bring us back to (the best of) reality. Marine Le Pen polled only 33.9% on 7 May, far less than her expectations to reach the 40% mark.

After her dismal performance during the TV debate against Macron, which certainly marked a turning point in an otherwise rather good campaign, Le Pen knew that she would be defeated but not that heavily.

Her sudden change of mind on the issue of Frexit, which she now accepts delaying for several months, or even years after she got elected, did not bring in the votes from mainstream conservative party voters. Nearly half (48%) of those chose Macron on the second round, simply because they did not want the FN to win.

Sure, there is some reason for Le Pen to celebrate – she got 1.6 million votes, twice as much as her father in 2002. Another point she wanted to take advantage of was the low turnout (25.38% did not vote) and the unusually high number of invalid ballots (11.49%) cast by either conservative of radical left voters who did not want to participate in the Front républicain –the union of all democratic parties – against the FN.

The responsibility for this unwillingness to oppose the FN head-on is that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party, La France insoumise, which refused to ask its supporters to cast their votes for Macron.

The fact that the new president-elect is a centrist, a proponent of free-market economics and a supporter of Europe is, of course, pretty hard to swallow for the anti-capitalist left.

Nevertheless, failing to understand that bringing change to the politics of the EU first means living in a democratic country, not in an illiberal one (at best) where there would obviously be attacks on basic civil rights. Unfortunately, Mélenchon failed to grasp that and damaged his own cause.

Le Pen’s next steps

What will Le Pen do now? On the evening of 7 May, she announced that FN needs to change from within. This refers to a forthcoming change of name: the party is set to become ‘The Patriots’ in a move that means that her party seeks to portray itself as having a monopoly on “patriotism”; whereas Macron, a former investment banker, is presented as the man of big money, corporations and “special interests” – or as others would say, “international finance”.

Le Pen also said the new party would open its arms to other political “patriotic forces” if they wanted to cooperate. The phrase “alliance of the patriots” was heard.

However, as soon as she finished her speech, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, whom she had picked as her prime minister-to- be, declined to continue with the FN.

This former conservative cabinet member – who is quite the French Nigel Farage – did not even convince the majority of his own supporters on the first ballot to switch to the FN on the second. At the time of writing, no-one has answered Le Pen’s strident call to join in.

In any case, the transformation of FN into a new party will only take place after the June legislative elections, probably with a national convention to be held in the months to come.

Whatever happens, Marine Le Pen will have to face some internal strife from those supporters of her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who wants the party to drop its “neither Left nor Right” ideology in favour of a radical right approach based on the issues of ethnicity, immigration and traditional family values.

The only problem for her is that the party apparatus is firmly into the hands of Marine Le Pen and her inner circle of advisors, led by Florian Philippot, the number two man. So there is little space for a re-run of the 1998 stand-off between Le Pen Senior and Bruno Mégret. In the Front National, the boss is the boss, and those who do not want to bow have to go, sooner or later.


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