French President Emmanuel Macron will face far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in a winner-takes-all runoff for the French presidency on April 24. Victory for Macron, like in the previous presidential duel against Le Pen in 2017, is far from guaranteed, warn Swiss newspapers.
With 99% of results counted, Emmanuel Macron took 27.6% of the first-round presidential vote on Sunday and Marine Le Pen 23.41% to qualify for the second-round runoff.
The repeat of the 2017 contest pitting a pro-European economic liberal against a euro-sceptic nationalist “confirmed the fractures of a society divided over its future”, declared the Le Temps newspaper in an editorial.
The German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) echoed this, saying the French elections clearly showed that “France's political landscape is suffering from a serious malaise”.
“Neither the bourgeois right nor the moderate left managed to field strong candidates. For them, the election night ended in fiasco. Those who had had enough of Macron had only extreme alternatives - either Le Pen or the left-wing radical [Jean Luc] Mélenchon, who came in third.”
Bridging the divide
Turnout in the first round was lower than five years ago, but higher than the record low in 2002 – with abstention forecast at about 26%.
“There is a high risk that many will abstain from voting in the runoff. Mobilising voters for the second round will be a challenge for both Macron and Le Pen,” said the NZZ.
“If Macron wants to secure his re-election, he will have to campaign for himself more convincingly than before. Just warning about the bogeywoman Le Pen would be a risky strategy,” it said.
Le Temps said Macron must show that his campaign slogan “All of us” is not just PR.
“He needs to demonstrate that at 44 years old he can act as a bridge between these two faces of the country that are divided by terrible feelings of dispossession, frustrations and anger.”
The Fribourg-based La Liberté newspaper offered Macron some practical advice.
He must now “go down and meet the people in the streets… and confront the things he has neglected: the daily concerns of the French, in particular higher prices”, it said.
“Not unthinkable” Le Pen victory
According to the first French opinion polls carried out after the result on April 10, Macron could win the second round with a possible score of 54-51% versus 46-49% for Le Pen.
However, La Liberté and its partners ArcInfo and Le Nouvelliste, said the second round still presents a huge risk for Macron.
“The two finalists are being carried forward by different dynamics. The incumbent president has been going down in the polls since the start of March while the National Rally candidate is accelerating.”
The Geneva-based Le Courrier newspaper echoed this: “Mathematically, the Republican front [the centre-right and leftwing parties that traditionally have joined forces to oppose the far-right National Front, now the National Rally] should be enough to stop the far right. But politics is not arithmetic. Marine Le Pen has the wind in her sails.”
A Le Pen victory on April 24 is “not unthinkable”, wrote the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, adding that it would have repercussions “for the entire Western world”.
“If the challenger [Marine Le Pen] wins the runoff, it would not only be a political sensation for France. A President Le Pen would shake up the international world order in the long term - and massively strengthen Vladimir Putin's position,” it said.
As president, Le Pen would scale back France's involvement in NATO and, along with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, weaken the European Union, the editorial said.
“That would be devastating for the further course of the Ukraine war. With a President Le Pen, the united front against the Kremlin ruler would crumble severely.”
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