Emmanuel Macron portrait smashed by protestors in Poitiers
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There are 238 days to go until electors in France go to the polls to vote in the first round of the 2022 Presidential Election. Emmanuel Macron, 43, has not yet declared whether or not he will seek re-election as President of France.
Opinion polls seem to suggest Macron will win a second term provided he finishes in the top two in the first round and faces the leader of National Rally Marine Le Pen in the second ballot held on April 24, 2022.
But an associate professor in French history and politics from the University of Nottingham has said “it is very possible to imagine a Presidential Election where Macron is not in the second round”.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Paul Smith said: “We’re coming into a political year where anybody and everybody’s political position is up for negotiation.”
He also revealed that the electoral race could be even more catastrophic for another prominent political figure on the other side of the Channel.
Marine Le Pen, 53, who was pummelled in the second round against Macron in 2017, seems to have a particularly challenging time ahead.
While the far-right leader has so far polled well in the first round, she is yet to poll higher than Macron in the final ballot – instead her support wavers between 48 and 40 percent.
When asked if Le Pen had possibly hit a peak level of support, Dr Smith said: “It does seem, and the opinion poll suggests this, that there is a ceiling beyond which she can’t get.”
The far-right leader’s party struggled in the recent local elections where, despite high expectations, they failed to take control of any regional area in France.
Le Pen seems aware that she will need to appeal to swing voters if she is going to make the Élysée Palace her home in 2022.
The far-right leader has softened her stance on many issues, including the European Union and abortion.
Historically, however, the far-right has failed to make significant inroads amongst the electorate, even with those on the right.
In 2002, Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, was trounced by Jacques Chirac as French voters from across the political divide blocked the National Front in their droves.
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But Dr Smith said: “The big difference here is that some people on the right nowadays in France see themselves as closer to Marine Le Pen than they do to somebody like Macron.”
The Nottingham University professor added that despite the widely-held assumption Le Pen will finish in the top two, she could be outflanked by other figures vying for the populist vote.
Éric Zemmour, 62, and Florian Philippot, 39, could prove to be a thorn in the side of Le Pen as both men look likely to speak to far-right and populist discontent in France. In a scenario where Zemmour and Philippot snatch a few percent of the vote away from Le Pen, the National Rally leader could find herself squeezed into third place.
Dr Smith said: “Let’s imagine Zemmour and Philippot nick so many votes off Le Pen that she only gets 18 percent, Xavier Bertrand gets to 19 and Macron gets to 20. Now, in that situation, wow, that I think would be very close.”
Xavier Bertrand, 56, is an ex-Minister who is no longer a member of the main centre-right outfit Les Républicains. Bertrand has already registered a lead of 52 percent to 48 percent against Macron in a second ballot poll.
Dr Smith believes Bertrand would “win hands down” if he came up against Le Pen in the final round. However, he stressed that the right has a unity problem.
The President of Île-de-France, Valérie Pécresse, 54, is touted as a potential candidate on the centre-right who could do well in 2022.
Smith highlighted that the election has come too early for left-wing candidates in France but did suggest Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, 62, could pose problems for President Macron.
France will enter the so-called la rentrée period in September.
During this time, political parties will begin to decide who they want to put forward for the first ballot on April 10, 2022.
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