May 24, 2019
Rising campaign stakes are a double-edged sword for Macron
Emmanuel Macron's presence in the campaign increased the French interest in the European elections. The projected participation rate is finally picking up by 4pp, to reach 44%. But mobilisation is not necessarily benefiting Macron's LREM. Macron's greater engagement mobilises voters both for and against him. Which is the bigger constituency? The latest poll says that Marine Le Pen's RN is now at 25%, ahead Macron's LREM with 23%. It seems that the newly-participating voters are dividing themselves between the two frontrunners. The gilets jaunes are preparing for a big rally in Paris tomorrow, with a call to turn this election into an anti-Macron vote. This in turn may also mobilise those who would come to Macron's rescue on Sunday. What seems not to be happening so far is a rise in support for a third party. Les Républicains are so far not catching up with Le Pen's RN. The only shift we are seeing is on the left, where the Greens are picking up and have surpassed Jean-Luc Mélenchon's list as the main third party on the left. With climate change such a prominent theme of this campaign, the EELV is finally reaping the benefit of greater credibility in this domain .
Could there be a surprise turn of events? The French polls were quite reliable in the presidential elections but, as we saw in the Netherlands, polls for the European elections can be less reliable. And, since there are no clear confrontations that divide French voters, there is room for last-minute surprises.
Cécile Cornudet makes the observation that this campaign is one that appeals to two fundamental fears: about climate change and about migration. All parties positioned themselves somewhere on this spectrum, but without a clear confrontation between them unlike in 2014. Voters cannot blame the parties for not speaking about their deepest fears. The question is whether voters believe that a party can do anything about them. This election is about credibility.