More than 13 million votes – or 41.45% of the votes cast – went to Marine Le Pen on Sunday, during the second round of the presidential election. It is of course an unprecedented performance – and by far – for the extreme right. Only 10 million people voted for Le Pen in 2017, and 5.5 million in the second round of 2002. “This is a very important score which shows that the far right has grown, that it is is consolidated, and that something has happened under this five-year term which has left more room for Marine Le Pen”, judges Gilles Ivaldi, political scientist specializing in the far right at Cevipof. Marine Le Pen also saw in her score “a resounding victory”. That much ?
“We can say that the RN had a skilful management of the defeat, Sunday evening”, notes, all in euphemism, Mathieu Gallard, director of studies at Ipsos. “41.45% is not an extremely good score for Marine Le Pen when the context was positive for her,” adds the pollster. This “positive context” is first of all the demonization of Marine Le Pen, accelerated by Eric Zemmour, who served as a screen in the first round. She was no longer the extremist on duty in the media, and her image was vastly improved from 2017.
Positive but ambivalent context
The “positive context” is also a campaign that was played on its favorite theme this year: purchasing power. A theme on which Marine Le Pen even ended up being deemed credible in opinion polls. And a theme that is always difficult for an outgoing: “Seeing this subject come back, that means that after five years, the situation has not necessarily improved”, noted the economist Stéphanie Villers at the start of the school year.
Precisely, Marine Le Pen was also facing an outgoing president outside cohabitation and, until Sunday, none had succeeded in being re-elected by direct universal suffrage. “With all this, she probably couldn’t win, but the second round could have been more contested,” judge Mathieu Gallard. The result was ultimately final.
Gilles Ivaldi also recognizes a favorable context for Marine Le Pen, but judges that on each of these elements of context, there were also things favorable to Emmanuel Macron. “Eric Zemmour certainly played the role of a more extremist scarecrow, but accredited that the far right was on the rise and constituted a threat. On purchasing power, the situation is partly linked to the war in Ukraine, which clearly benefits the outgoing president. »
The Republican front exists much more than we imagine
Another indicator not really engaging for Marine Le Pen: a completely missed between-two laps. “She tried to continue her positive momentum from the first round, but it didn’t work. It lacked something new to create a new dynamic,” thinks Gilles Ivaldi. And then the two main weaknesses of the RN were again highlighted: first the fact that it is a far-right party “Judged by a majority of French people as authoritarian and racist”, explains Mathieu Gallard. And then on the question of competence: “Marine Le Pen is still not perceived as solid enough, in particular by the right-wing electorate. Even in the debate, she was dominated on this by Emmanuel Macron ”.
It was seen in the figures: between the polls carried out on the evening of the first round and the result of the second round, the RN candidate lost 5.5 points. It had only lost 3.5 in 2017. In the end, even if it is less valiant than in 2002, the Republican front is still alive and well. More than we think in any case: the gap of 17 points observed on Sunday between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen is higher than in most polls. Of 238 Macron-Le Pen second-round polls published since January 2019, only 15 gave a larger gap. All at the time of the outbreak of war in Ukraine, where voting intentions in favor of Emmanuel Macron soared.
“It is the FN’s electoral iron law: the more the prospect of its coming to power seems concrete after the results of the first round, the more the backlash [retour de bâton] is strong in the second,” analyzed Ipsos pollster Mathieu Gallard in early April. At that time, Marine Le Pen was within the margin of error of victory in the second-round polls. “The regional last year proved it to us when, in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, even against a former UMP, Thierry Mariani, who embodied the de-demonization of the RN, the republican front still worked” , recalls Gilles Ivaldi. The last ramparts of the Republican front are perhaps the strongest.