Le Pen and the right wing hit a wall in French vote
BY DOUGLAS SCHOEN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR - 04/23/17 05:25 PM EDT
The preliminary results from the first round of the French presidential election indicate that the centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will now advance to the May 7th second round ballot. This is of extraordinary importance for the United States and indeed the civilized world.
The narrow margin between Macron and Le Pen, which remains too close to call, signals that there has been little if any bump in the polls for Le Pen following the tragic terrorist incident four days before the election on Thursday on the Champs-Elysees, where one police officer was killed by an ISIS-inspired gunman.
Additionally, all of the pre-election polling indicated that Le Pen would lose to every challenger in the second round of voting. In particular, the April 23rd Harris Interactive Poll projects that Le Pen will lose to Macron by a healthy 64-36 margin. Of course, this is a much smaller margin than the 82-18 margin by which Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lost to Jacques Chirac in 2002. Still, the Macron-Le Pen second round ballot will be a landslide in Macron’s favor and there does not appear to be anything on horizon that may change those numbers, which have been relatively constant throughout the campaign.
What this does mean is a number of things for France.
First, France will stay in the European Union, and indeed Macron has discussed strengthening France’s European relations.
Second, Macron, unlike Francois Fillon or Le Pen, does not have ties to Russia. Macron is pro-Western alliances and can be expected to work with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other European leader to strengthen, not weaken, European ties.
Third, given the recent general election results in the Netherlands, where far-right candidate Geert Wilders lost to the incumbent Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, today’s results in the French election demonstrate a weakening of right-wing sentiment and an anti-populist trend in Europe. This trend suggests that the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit may be discrete phenomena of 2016 that may well have attenuated at this point.
Fourth, it remains clear that the vote for Macron is an anti-systemic vote. Macron has never held elected office and ran as an outsider, man of change who could bring France’s left and right together. This is clearly beneficial to the French people and is very different than Donald Trump’s tactics and positioning.
Macron’s projected election raises the possibility for us in the United States and around the world that there can be candidates like Macron, a unifying outsider, who can produce political change.
This means that the response to political dysfunction does not necessarily have to mean polarization, but it can lead to unity and conciliation.
Macron’s success indicates that this can happen, it appears to have happened, and indeed France, as well as the rest of the civilized world, will be the clear beneficiary.