French Presidential Election
April 10-24, 2022

For his second term bid, so-called centrist President Emmanuel Macron, sensing the prevailing right-wing winds, has drifted further in that direction. In 2017 we received many emails from Macron supporters who criticised our unambiguous placement of him on the economic right. A number of them have since contacted us, belatedly accepting our assertion in the light of Macron’s neo-liberal policies, in tandem with tough law and order provisions.

His initiatives for dialogue during the pre-invasion Ukranian crisis may not have succeeded, but the French President has come across to many mainstream conservatives as energetic and statesmanlike. It looks unlikely that the removal vans will be called to the Élisée in late April. At the same time, Macron’s République en Marche (Republic on the Move) party cannot be complacent in a highly unpredictable political climate with three other presidential hopefuls in the top right quadrant of France’s Political Compass.

Marine Le Pen has been working on softening the style of the old National Front, which she took over from her father in 2011. The renaming of the party to Rassemblement National (National Rally) in 2018 seems to have proven too much for many of her more hard-line supporters. They are defecting to independent candidate Eric Zemmour — a late entry on the political scene. Zemmour is best known as a far-right TV pundit, with a string of convictions for inciting racial hatred, and no intention of toning down the rhetoric. The latest polls show him enjoying similar popularity ratings to the dismayed Le Pen.

A distance from the France-for-the-French sort of stance is conservative Valérie Pécresse, who describes herself as two-thirds Angela Merkel and one-third Margaret Thatcher. She is the independent candidate chosen to represent Les Républicans, and advocates neoliberalism — but along with consensus building.

One of the wildest cards on the left is the PCF’s (Communist Party’s) Fabien Roussel. It’s the first time in fifteen years that the Communists have fielded a candidate. Roussel is a charismatic and light-hearted character whose firebrand party ancestors would scarcely recognise him as one of them — least of all for his Keynesian prescription to stimulate consumer demand through wage increases. His slogan, Happy Days for France reiterates the French resistance rallying cry at the end of WWII, when the French Communist Party was at the height of its popularity. While Roussel insists that you don’t have to be a communist to vote for him, you’re likely to be a red-blooded socialist. After all, he is ready to nationalise France’s biggest banks.

The PS (French Socialist Party) fortunes have sunk significantly, and their candidate, Anne Hidalgo, doesn’t seem to be helping. Also the Paris Mayor, she is perhaps perceived by some potential voters to be too tied up with the affairs of the capital city to be a credible presidential prospect. Her work in keeping cars out of much of Paris and introducing more cycle lanes and pedestrian thoroughfares has earned international admiration but also bitter complaints at home that she has upset commuting traffic and sacrificed historic heritage.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a formidable veteran campaigner who abandoned the Socialist Party because of its rightward drift. His La France Insoumise Party (Unbowed France) promises a rejection of neoliberalism, an increased minimum wage, strengthened union rights and much else. Mélenchon, who won over ten percent support in the previous two elections, looks set to again leave the rest of the left in the shadows. In 2017 he outpolled the Socialist Party.

Along with the familiar issues like health, social justice, the environment and climate change, Yannik Jadot of Europe Ecologie — Les Verts (Europe Ecology — The Greens) offers a particularly socially libertarian take on left politics. He accuses his fellow left parties of making people feel guilty for being insufficiently virtuous.

One of the unknowns of this fascinating election is whether Le Pen will make it to the crucial second round. And, incidentally, if not her, whom? While Le Pen is characterised as ‘far right’, her economics are quite left, and a lot of her voter base is from disenchanted social conservatives in the socialist camp. By contrast, fellow authoritarian nationalist Zemmour’s economics are clearly to the right, and on that score he’ll be hoping to find favour among the sort of voters that might otherwise have gravitated to Valérie Pécresse. Despite their differing social bases, Zemmour is of course also attracting support from the beleaguered Le Pen.

Our chart has been compiled with reference to speeches, manifestos and, where applicable, voting records. Should significant policy changes be announced during the campaign, the chart will be updated accordingly.

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