The second round of voting in the French presidential elections today has vindicated our analysis and forecasts of 23 April 2017 immediately following the first round of voting and our view that immigration will play a big role in the voting.
As many expected, the centre-right candidate Emmanuel Macron won today in the second round and will thus become the new French president, but with regard to the first round, we wrote that,
as with Trump last year, do not be surprised if Marine Le Pen gets more votes than forecast.
Marine Le Pen has indeed now met our forecast by a considerable margin.
In 2002, the National Front leader and Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, lost in the second round to the incumbent president Jacques Chirac with about 6.2m votes or some 17.8% of the vote.
Early projections indicate that although the National Front lost again, this time Marine Le Pen garnered about 11m votes or 34.5% of the votes cast, so the party has nearly than doubled its votes compared to the second round in 2002.
We thus also correctly forecast that
… one thing is certain – political uncertainty will continue to haunt major western countries for the foreseeable future, with all the profound implications that has for security and the economy.
Whatever the outcome of the first and second rounds of France’s presidential elections, however, these problems – and the fury – will remain.
The National Front will be buoyed by this success and a party official has already said that a new movement would now be formed, which could indeed herald the end of the Fifth Republic’s party structure.
Much now will depend on the upcoming parliamentary elections in June 2017, not least because, as we noted, Macron, like Le Pen, has no party behind him.
If the president elect fails to get strong support in June, his ability to get to grips with France’s problems could be tightly constrained and dependent on coalitions, which in France results results in cohabitation. Under the French Constitution, the President selects the Prime Minister, but runs into problems if the parliamentary majority is from a different party than himself – and of course, Macron currently has no party at all.
Any failure to alleviate the problems, however, is likely to exacerbate the country’s divisions.
So while Le Pen was well beaten, the sharply increased votes could give the National Front or its successor movement a much greater chance in the next presidential elections, which are due in 2022.
In some ways, the situation is thus similar to that in The Netherlands. At the Dutch parliamentary elections on 15 March 2017, the nationalist right-wing party Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid – PVV) under Geert Wilders did not do as well as many feared – but it nevertheless gained 5 seats to become the second-largest in the Dutch House of Representatives.
The advocates of continued immigration into France and their view that such a policy represents “openness” will be encouraged by Macron’s victory, but unemployment in the country still stands at 10% – over twice the figure in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States and above the eurozone average of 9.5%.
And with youth unemployment in France at 25%, dealing with the already existing problem, especially in the banlieues, might be a more appropriate policy response.
Source: Unemployment statistics from Eurostat, February 2017