A year after his triumphant re-election, France’s President Emmanuel Macron finds himself trailing behind the right-wing populist sensation Marine Le Pen. If the presidential election of April 2022 were to be held today, Macron would only muster a measly 45 per cent, according to a shocking poll published on Wednesday by Elabe, a top-notch polling institute, for the BFM television network. Le Pen, the fearless leader of the National Rally party, would storm to victory, clinching 55 per cent of the vote and potentially snatching the Elysée Palace from Macron’s clutches.
Rewind a year to the decisive runoff, and it was Macron who claimed victory with 58.5 per cent of the vote, leaving Le Pen lagging behind with 41.5 per cent. It was the first time in two decades that a French president had managed to cling onto power for a second term.
Marine Le Pen, the feisty and formidable woman at the helm of the National Rally, boasts a background steeped in controversy and intrigue. Daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the esteemed and influential founder of the National Front, she has bravely emerged from her father’s remarkable legacy, demonstrating to the world that she is a unique force to be reckoned with. Jean-Marie Le Pen, a charismatic and visionary figure, played a pivotal role in shaping French politics throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, standing up for national identity and conservative values in the face of significant opposition.
Raised in a politically charged household, Le Pen was groomed for battle, fighting tooth and nail for the values she cherishes – French nationalism, traditionalism, and a staunch resistance to the encroachment of globalisation and mass immigration. A trained lawyer, Le Pen first waded into the perilous world of politics in 1998 when she joined the National Front, quickly ascending through the ranks and proving herself a tireless champion of France’s heritage and identity. In 2011, she took the reins of the party and, with a fierce determination, rebranded it as the National Rally, distancing it from the more extreme elements of its past.
France is currently a nation on edge. Weeks of massive and violent protests have erupted against a pension reform pushed through by Macron’s government. Strikes and demonstrations have revealed a simmering cauldron of discontent, with citizens expressing their frustration over rising inflation, political apathy, and a growing rejection of their president.
On Thursday, the nation roared as mass protests broke out in over 370 cities across the land, fiercely opposing Macron’s pension reform. In Marseille alone, union reports claim that a staggering 170,000 people rallied against raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. Meanwhile, in Paris, hundreds of thousands more took to the streets, with tensions boiling over into fiery clashes between the authorities and passionate protesters. The famous Café de la Rotonde briefly caught fire after police retreated from its entrance, only to be pelted with pyrotechnics by the demonstrators, who refused to back down.
Macron’s once shiny and polished image is now tainted and tarnished. He faces a seemingly endless barrage of challenges, from the Yellow Vest protests that rocked the nation to the struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, which some have labelled a scam due to inconsistencies in reporting, governmental overreach, and the negative economic impact of lockdowns. In stark contrast, Le Pen appears to be basking in the warm glow of popularity. Her nationalist message and promises to put France first have struck a chord with a nation grappling with uncertainty and change.
This reversal of fortunes could spell trouble for Macron in the the next presidential race. With Le Pen soaring on a tidal wave of support, she’s got her steely gaze locked on the ultimate trophy – the French presidency. A nation fractured and a disenchanted public may well be the perfect ingredients for this right-wing dynamo to seize her crowning glory.