Where will Marine Le Pen find the 50 percent of French voters she needs?

Marine Le Pen faces an uphill battle to find the votes she needs to see her become the first female president of France. But she does have options to explore.

Where will Marine Le Pen find the 50 percent of French voters she needs?
Photo: AFP

Marine Le Pen will go head-to-head with Emmanuel Macron in the second round round of the presidential election to determine who will be the next head of state in France.

The far-right National Front leader picked up a record 7.6 million votes in the first round of the election, but to have any chance getting elected she will probably have to at least double that figure.

There are voters out there she could win over.

If we just add up all the votes from the openly anti-EU candidates then in theory Le Pen could reach 46 percent of the vote.

But of course things are not as simple as that and the EU is far from the only thing that maters to the French electorate.

So where will Le Pen get her extra voters from?


Fillon voters

In spite of François Fillon's call to endorse Macron, around a third of his supporters are ready to back Le Pen, whilst another 20 percent may help her close the points gap on Macron by abstaining, Kantar Public pollster Edouard Lecerf told The Local.

For example former minister Christian Democrat leader Christine Boutin, who had backed Fillon, has called on voters to endorse Le Pen. She tweeted “voting for Le Pen doesn't mean subscribing to the National Front's ideas but it weakens Emmanuel Macron”.

National Front official named Julien Odoul told The Local: “Many of Fillon's supporters will back Le Pen. They share our values and their ideas are quite similar to ours on Islamic fundamentalism, immigration, work and national identity.”

“In my department, a majority of Fillon supporters will endorse Marine Le Pen”, said Odoul.

Bruno Cautres, a political analyst from the Cevipof think tank told The Local: “Fillon's electorate believes that society needs more order, this is a vision they share with Le Pen.” 

But the problem for Le Pen, as Cautres points out is that they disagree on economic views.

“Fillon wants less regulation and Le Pen advocates for a redistribution of wealth in a nationalistic context. They also disagree on Europe,” he said.

Mélenchon voters

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is not a fan of either Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron declaring “both wanted to undermine the most elementary social basics of the country”.

The hard-left firebrand was heavily criticized for not calling on his voters to help form a united “Republican Front” against the far right.

“Each of you knows in your conscience what your duty is,” was  all he told supporters.

The National Front are also quietly confident that they can convince fellow anti-establishment, anti-globalisation voters who backed Melenchon to jump across the political divide and back Le Pen in round two.

Le Pen would have to present herself as the champion of those who feel they have lost out to globalisation. She would have to make sure the next 12 days or so were dominated by the “patriots vs globalists” division that she presents as the major battle in France right now.

“Mélenchon's voters don't want any of Macron's liberal and globalized Europe,” National Front official Julien Odoul told The Local.

“The vast majority of them would never vote for Macron. Their views converge with ours on Europe, on the respect of popular sovereignty, on changing the establishment, and as Marine Le Pen is the anti-establishment candidate, they will vote for us”, he said.

However this is not what pollsters predict.

“Half of Mélenchon supporters would abstain and only 15 percent would  back Le Pen”, says Lecerf.


What about the voters out there?

The National Front is confident that the 4 percent of the electorate (around 2 million voters) who voted for fellow sovereignist and anti-EU candidate Nicolas Dupont Aignan will switch to Le Pen without thinking.

“Dupont-Aignan's electorate is meant to back us,” said the National Front's Julien Odoul.

Dupont-Aignan has announced that he would decide who to endorse in the coming days, but the National Front's vice-president Florian Philippot has already called Dupont-Aignan to urge his supporters to vote for Le Pen in the final runoff.

Kantar public's Edouard Lecerf said: “Nicolas Dupont-Aignan voters constitute an important electoral base for the FN as over 50% of them will probably back Le Pen now.”

Another Eurosceptic François Asselineau gathered 0.9% of votes but hasn't given any voting guidelines to his supporters yet.

“Asselineau is pro-Frexit and his electors could easily find their place in our project, they want the system to change and so do we”, the National Front's Julien Odoul told The Local.

Abstentionists will help Le Pen

Perhaps the best way Marine Le Pen can increase her vote share is to hope that more voters abstain in the second round.

The abstention rate in the first round was 21.3 percent, far lower that everyone expected. But with many voters, especially those on the hard left and many on the right, not willing to back Macron, the abstention rate is set to be higher.

Complacency could also set in with many voters.

Polling day falls on a long holiday weekend meaning many voters may decide to go away, already convinced that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president.

Perhaps Le Pen should spend some of her campaign money buying them train tickets to the coast.

Le Pen has quickly started her bid to appeal to more to more voters by temporarily stepping down from the head of the National Front.

She has also begun launching the expected attacks on Emmanuel Macron, calling him weak on terrorism. She will no doubt fire everything she has at him over the next two weeks.

But it's still doubtful, although far from impossible that she will get to the magic 50 percent mark.

By Elisabeth Beretta 

Who are the millions of French voters backing Marine Le Pen?

Who are the millions of French voters backing Marine Le Pen?



Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”