Britain’s vote to leave the EU. Donald Trump’s unexpected march to the White House.
Western politics has experienced more upheaval in the last 6 months many people will witness in their lifetimes.
As Trump’s tally mounted last night and it became clear that he would overcome his rival, Front National founder Jean-Marie Le Pen congratulated him – “Today, the United States, tomorrow, France. Bravo!”
His daughter Marine Le Pen, Front National leader and staunch friend to the Brexit and Trump campaigns, added a jubilant response of her own:“Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built”.
When the dust has settled on Trump’s victory, focus will turn to elections in Europe next year, notably France, Germany and the Netherlands.
But how likely is it that Marine Le Pen will win the French presidency in 2017?
Le Pen’s brand of right-wing populism has seen her steadily gather support throughout this year. In a presidential poll carried for Le Monde in May, Le Pen was the clear winner on 28 per cent. Possible UMP candidate and former president Nicholas Sarkozy scored 21 per cent, whilst sitting president Francois Hollande trailed behind on 14 per cent – half that of Le Pen.
The current political climate in France favours the Front National. Tensions are high following a spate of terrorist attacks. Heightened levels of unemployment and low growth have created a public mood which is increasingly receptive to the Front National’s nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-EU message.
Le Figaro commissioned a survey in September which tested nine possible scenarios for the two rounds of voting which will take place in April and May 2017. In the first round, it found that in eight out of nine scenarios, Le Pen would win the most votes. It found that former Economy Minister and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron would fare better than Hollande in the first round. However, Alain Juppé, the mild mannered, deep-thinking former French prime minister who is expected to win the centre-right UMP candidacy, would in most tested scenarios defeat both Macron and Hollande.
This would mean that the second round of the election would see Le Pen pitted against Juppé. It is considered extremely difficult for a candidate from outside of the two centrist left and right wing parties to win the presidency, as centrist supporters are expected to rally round the same candidate to lock out an outside candidate. She will win votes from the left and right but, in theory, the two main parties’ combined power will lock Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace.
So it looks extremely difficult – but not impossible.
Conventional wisdom tells us that Le Pen’s new world will never be built. But conventional wisdom – and pollsters – told us that the UK would vote to remain in the European Union, and that Hilary Clinton would be delivering an acceptance speech today.
In light of Trump’s success, those with an interest in French politics may want to rethink what is possible – and expect the unexpected.
“Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front” by Global Panorama is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.