Global Independent Analytics

Why Le Pen Just Lost Her Best Chance to Win French Election

The recent fiasco of National Front’s leader seems to hamper her way to presidentship

Gregory Viscusi for Bloomberg discusses Marine Le Pen’s failure to win a single region in the runoffs and the consequences of such outcome. 

Regional elections with their low attendance rate tend to benefit dissident parties, and it was clearly demonstrated when Le Pen was favored with the majority of votes. But in the second round traditional right wing parties teamed up with voters from the left and effectively defeated anti-EU, anti-immigrant party.

The initial vote round has been promising great results for the National Front as it has managed to outrun other candidates in six regions of France with high chances of winning Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Alsace-Lorraine. But shortly after that the Socialist Party has convinced voters to vote Republican, and successfully received all the three regions. Respectively something similar is very likely to happen in 2017 presidential elections.

Viscusi quotes Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher at Iris, a French political research institute: “Marine Le Pen into the second round in 2017 is a bet worth making. Marine Le Pen winning the second round is very improbable. The National Front is the party that is the most rejected by the French.”

Marine Le Pen decided to drop racial and anti-Semitic rhetoric that was the reason why her father and party predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been expelled earlier. Thanks to her stance on France economical stagnation and joblessness, Sunday’s vote favored Marine with a record 6.82 million ballots, almost 400 thousands votes more than she has acquired in 2012.

However, most French still oppose her appeals to eliminate euro, reinstate national boundaries and strengthen immigration rules. As reported by head of the Socialist Party, 60 to 70 percent of French people are ready to deny National Front victory.

Although the polls show that Le Pen would make it to 20 percent if the presidential elections were held today, she still remains one of the most unpopular lawmaker. Viscusi gives current statistics: According to an Elabe survey of 1,003 voters released on Dec. 3, 63 percent have a negative opinion of her, with 48 percent saying they “strongly” dislike her. Hollande was strongly disliked by 33 percent and Sarkozy by 40 percent. What’s more, 67 percent of the French have a negative opinion of the National Front, an Odoxa poll released Dec. 11 found. Broken down, 76 percent of respondents said it was “discriminatory,” 66 percent said it would bring “disorder” and 63 percent agreed it “has an economic program that would be dangerous for the country.”

Turnout rate also tend to discern between regional and presidential elections and it would also work against Le Pen. First round with about 50% rate ended well for her party. However, the second round with the rate of 59% was not as successful as the first one. The presidential elections in their turn are estimated to demonstrate about 80% of the electorate turnout. With 50% participation rate Le Pen received 6 million votes and it is safe to assume that at presidential elections she would be able to receive about 23% of ballots, or up to 9 million votes.

By comparison, in regional elections any candidate who made more that 10% of ballots is guaranteed to take part in the next round; in parliamentary and presidential elections only top two candidates can make it through to the second round.

“We mustn’t confuse regional elections fought on a different system with National Assembly elections where the FN has no chance at all of coming to power in the foreseeable future. This is where the FN is punished for being a solitary force within a system that demands the ability to strike alliances with other parties,” Viscusi cites Jim Shields, head of French studies at Aston University in Birmingham, England.

In 2012 only two out of 577 parliament seats belonged to Le Pen’s National Front, in spite of her taking 18% in presidential elections that year, and it demonstrated people’s approach to the party. This year chances are that Le Pen would not have an opportunity of showing her and her party fit to govern in the run-up to the next presidential elections.

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