Macron is already over. Can anyone stop Le Pen?

In World

After the initial projections were released, thousands of French citizens converged on the Place de la République in Paris to protest against the far right. The scenes were reminiscent of protests against Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, who qualified for the second round of the presidential election in 2002 as the candidate for the party then known as the National Front.

Back then, parties and voters joined together against the far right, putting their differences aside to beat the extreme candidate under a policy known as the cordon sanitaire. But European politics has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

The far-left France Unbowed party and its leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has emerged as arguably an even greater foe for the centrists than Le Pen, after a year spent fighting in the National Assembly. Macron himself has spent much of this campaign slamming the policies of the left wing New Popular Front alliance, which includes the far left, as “grotesque” and destructive for France.

Speaking a couple of hours after the defeat, Macron’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal underscored the point: He called for “no vote to go to the National Front,” but he hinted that candidates belonging to Macron’s coalition should only bow out in cases where a candidate from “republican forces” was better-placed to win — possibly excluding France Unbowed candidates.

Macron’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal called for “no vote to go to the National Front.” | Ludovic Marin/Getty Images

The clearest sign of the cordon sanitaire breaking came from Macron ally and former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who explicitly called on voters to oppose the National Rally and France Unbowed, too.

“As the left has made Macron its big opponent, and Mélenchon and Macron have spent months fighting a huge political battle, it’s hard to resuscitate the cordon sanitaire,” said Bruno Jeanbart, a pollster from OpinionWay. “We also don’t know if it will make a difference with voters.” Jeanbart added that often centrist voters abstain when given the choice between the far left and the far right.

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