After the first round of the French Presidential election on April 23, many have predicted that Emmanuel Macron will comfortably beat Marine Le Pen in the run-off. Most polls gave Macron a large advantage over Le Pen, which led the mainstream media to conclude that the run-off on May 7 will be but a mere formality – fait accompli, as the French say.
However, the first week after the first round vote proved them wrong. Le Pen launched a dynamic and smart campaign. She stepped down as the leader of Front National, in an effort to distance herself from partisan politics and appeal to undecided voters.
For some, Le Pen’s move was seen as an attempt to shake off the still negative legacy of her party, but also present herself as an acceptable leader for those voters who still tend to distrust her and her policies.
Le Pen also made an important step forward when she forged an alliance with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a presidential candidate who won 4,7 percent in the first round. Dupont-Aignan is the founder of Debout la France, a sovereignist, Gaullist party and a former member of the center-right UMP.
Aignan said he will support Le Pen in the run-off, who choose him to be her Prime Minister if she wins the presidency.
Front National and Le Pen family are traditionally seen as pariahs of French politics. Isolated and without political allies, there was little or no chance for FN to win power, as the establishment united to prevent it from winning important elections.
In the years following her election as party leader, Marine Le Pen was working hard to re-brand her own and party image. FN’s electoral history under Marine’s leadership proved that she was largely successful in remodeling the party and making it acceptable for the majority of French voters.
Though, many analysts still have doubts whether Le Pen and FN will ever gain power. The 2017 presidential election is, undoubtedly important, but not crucial for Le Pen. In 2012 election she ended third, five years later, she managed to get through to the second round – a biggest result for FN since 2002, when Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen faced Jacques Chirac in the run-off.
Jean-Marie suffered a crushing defeat, winning only 17,8 percent of the vote.
Despite the predictions, his daughter now has a decent chance to end up as the next President of France.
With less than a week before voters go to the polling stations for the second time, Le Pen seems to have the momentum on her side. Whether that will be enough to pull off the biggest political earthquake in modern French history, we will see on May 7.