THE FINALISTS ARE:

An analysis of our partner GFC Net: Shan

78.69% of French voters have made their duty on Sunday April 23rd. In a very contested and uncertain first round, they have selected two finalists opposed in everything: Emmanuel Macron (Centre) and Marine Le Pen (Far-Right).

This outcome is historic for several reasons. This is the first time during the French Vth Republic that both traditional parties, the Socialist Party (Centre-left) and Les Républicains (Centre-right) are wiped from a presidential race at this stage. Benoît Hamon, who won the socialist primary against the former Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, few months ago, has faced a severe defeat with only 6.3% of the polls. This failure could lead to the collapse his party, which is deeply divided between the Centre-left (social-democrat and pro-business camp) and the “rebellious” (leftist opposed to François Hollande’s policy). The Centre-right (Les Républicains) is also deeply weakened by the results of its controversial candidate, François Fillon. With 19.94%, the latter has faced a huge disgrace and immediately called on his supporters to vote for Macron in the runoff. The party is now divided between a moderate line, which publicly supports Emmanuel Macron and a more conservative line, for which the choice of Macron is everything but obvious.

Furthermore, this result is an outstanding achievement for the 39-year-old frontrunner who launched his own centrist party En Marche only one year ago. Despite having never run for any political mandate he finished first of the first round with 23.86%. He succeeded to attract votes from people outside the traditional right/left division with a liberal, European and progressive platform. He is now the favorite to win the election after a series of supports coming from both the Centre-left and the Centre right. The question is whether Macron could lean on a majority at the National Assembly following the upcoming legislative election in June. As En Marche is a brand new political movement, it is hard to assess how many MPs it will count in the long term. Macron will probably have to find alliances with Centre-left and Centre-right figures, such as Manuel Valls or the former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin around 3 or 4 significant reforms. In the meantime, Macron will have to get the highest possible score in the second round to get a full legitimacy.

For Marine Le Pen (21.43%), it’s is an undeniable success. Through her anti-immigrant, anti-EU and populist platform, she attracted votes from the poorest and rural areas, while Macron has been clearly endorsed by the cities. Although Le Pen’s victory seems pretty unlikely as no candidate has publicly called to vote for her in the second round, this scenario is not totally impossible. Indeed, out of the total of voters, 49 per cent backed candidates opposed to the EU and in favour of more economic nationalism. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Far-Left), who looked very bitter despite an historic breakthrough with 19.6%, did not give any voting instructions, leaving hope that the FN will be able to attract some anti-system hard-left voters. Furthermore, the most conservative part of Fillon’s voters are very reluctant to vote for Macron, who is considered by Mr. Fillon as the spiritual son of François Hollande. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (a conservative and anti-EU candidate who gathered 4.88% of the votes) might support her against Macron but hasn’t not made a decision so far. And a figure of the conservative right, Christine Boutin, firmly opposed to the gay marriage, has already called to vote for Marine Le Pen in order to block Mr. Macron.

Here the map of first round’s results:

Yellow: Macron ahead. Grey: Le Pen. (Blue, Fillon. Red, Mélenchon.)

FOCUS: TWO CANDIDATES OPPOSED BY EVERYTHING

Emmanuel Macron, 39 (En marche, centre)

Career: Never held elected office; 2005 civil servant; 2008 investment banker; 2012 senior adviser to President François Hollande; 2014 economy minister; 2016 resigns, establishes En Marche!

  • Reform labour laws
  • Cut coporate taxes
  • Cut employees’ social security contribution
  • Cut public spending (but boost investment)
  • Remove the council tax for 80% of households
  • Nationalise and widen unemployment insurance
  • Remove the specific social security regime of self-employed workers
  • Hire more teachers in poorest and difficult areas
  • Provide a “culture pass” of 500 euros
  • Strenghten Europe (notably establish a Eurozone government)
  • Better refund certain health expenditures
  • Shrink public sector
  • Strenghten the budgetary effort for security (hire 10.000 more police and gendarmes)

Marine Le Pen, 48 (Front National, far-right)

Career: Lawyer by training; 1998 regional councillor; 2004 MEP; 2011 president of FN; 2012 presidential candidate (18% in first round)

  • Leave the EU (through a in/out referendum organised in the wake of her election)
  • Guarantee the Retirement age at 60
  • Give priority for French nationals in jobs, housing, welfare
  • Create an extra tax on foreign workers and imports
  • Reduce illegal immigration
  • Evict the foreign people who are registered as “dangerous for the State safety”
  • Remove the regions as administrative entities
  • Create 40.000 new prison places
  • Introduce the proportional system for the whole elections
  • Introduce a referendum based on popular initiative
  • Hire 15.000 police

MACRON’S LIKELY SUCCESS RELIEVES THE MARKETS AND THE EU

Many European officials and international investors, worried by the polls, were really relieved by the success of Mr. Macron in the first round and now hope that he will be able to relaunch the European construction together with the future German chancellor.

With 23.86% of the votes, the young centrist leader is likely to win the presidential race, at least according to investors. Soon after the results’ announcement, the Euro surged by two cents against the US dollar, pushing above $1.09 for the first time in five months. French bonds jumped, lowering the yield on benchmark 10-year bonds by 10 basis points to 0.821 per cent and France’s benchmark CAC 40 climbed more than 4% at the start of Monday’s trading, putting the index on course for its best day since 2015. It is also important to note that Footsie, Dax and Dow Jones have clearly bounced back in the wake of the first round. The banking sector made €51bn of additional market capitalization! Worried by the possibility of Frexit, investors now clearly anticipate a success of Macron in the runoff.

Brussels and the EU leaders also warmly welcomed the success of Mr. Macron. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, congratulated Mr. Macron on Twitter – contrary to usual protocol – wishing him good luck for the runoff. He added that the decision facing the French electorate “was a fundamental one”, between Macron, who represents pro-Europe values, and Le Pen, who “seeks its destruction”. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described Macron as a “patriot and European”, of whom he felt confident to beat Le Pen. “France must remain European,” he said.

In Germany, the foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said: “I am certain that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France. Great for Europe.” Mr. Gabriel has long been a supporter of Mr. Macron, as he said the former French banker offered a “new beginning” for Europe, while Le Pen’s plans “could cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs in France and all over Europe.” Although the chancellor Merkel did not directly comment on first round’s result, her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: “The result for Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The middle is stronger than the populists believe!

In UK, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne also cheered the success of Macron on Twitter: “Congratulationsto my friend @EmmanuelMacron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last, the chance for the leadership that France needs“. Spain’s foreign minister, Alfoso Dastis, added he hoped a victory for Macron in the second round would mark a break in the rise of extremist populist parties in Europe.

Pierre Moscovici, the current economic affairs commissioner said the runoff is now a “referendum on Europe“. Many European officials are confident that France is not going to say “No” to Europe, a second time after the 2005 referendum. However, Mr. Macron would be wrong considering that his success is already made.

WILL MACRON OR LE PEN HAVE A MAJORITY TO RUN FRANCE?
According to some calculations made by experts, if we copy/paste the results of the first round on the upcoming legislative election, Macron and his En Marche candidates would be able to form a sufficient majority to conduct the reforms the future government will offer:

Based on the first round results, in 566 constituencies (over 577):

  • Macron leads the polls in 230 constituencies
  • Marine Le Pen comes second with 216
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon, third with 67
  • and François Fillon fourth with 53

Here another map that shows that Centre comes first with 325 MPs (in yellow), then the Far-right comes second with 177 MPs (in purple),third the left (Hamon and Melenchon in left)) with 36 and finally the right with 28 (in blue).

However, it is important to remain prudent with these projections, as the local contexts often differ from the national one. Indeed, certain local well-established figures will probably dominate the polls should they support Mr. Macron or not. Moreover, it is hard to believe that the traditional Centre-Left and Centre-Right would be so weak during the elections.

Another point to bear in mind, En Marche was created only one year ago and cannot rely on the same network of supporters and local political figures as the traditional parties do.

Last uncertainty, so far the National Front has never succeeded to constitute a real political force within the national Assembly, victim of the majoritarian voting system – except between 1986 and 1988 when the proportional was introduced by François Mitterrand to curb the success of the Centre-Right. For example, between 2012 and 2017, the Front counted only 2 MPs. What would be the score of the Far-Right this time?

So will the French give a majority to Mr. Macron or Mrs. Le Pen if they are elected? Really hard to answer at this stage…

HOW DID THE SOCIAL MEDIA VOTE?
2.284.185 tweets posted during the first round

Positive sentiment (on Twitter)

Negative sentiment (on Twitter)

The most discussed topics (web & social media)

Voting intentions (based on support expressed on the web & social media)