News & Politics

Exit Polls: Establishment Favorite Emmanuel Macron Will Take On Nationalist Marine Le Pen in Round 2

Marine Le Pen can celebrate her party's second finish tonight. Blandine Le Cain (source: Flickr)

Polls in France have closed. According to the exit polls, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron — who’s leading a “movement” rather than a party — and Front National leader Marine Le Pen will proceed to the second round of the French presidential election.

That’s exactly what was indicated in the poll of polls, which had Macron leading the field with 24 percent, followed by Le Pen with 22 percent. The exit polls show Macron with 23.7 percent and Le Pen with 21.7 percent. If those results prove true, the last polls were right on the money.

For Le Pen, today’s result is an important victory. It was more or less expected, but she still needed to actually deliver. It’s not the first time that the Front National has proceeded to the second round, but the last time this happened was back in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen (Marine’s father and founder of the party) didn’t stand a chance — and everyone, including Le Pen himself, knew it. Since taking over at Front National, Marine has truly improved her party. The results indicate French voters understand that and appreciate it.

Marine Le Pen has mainstreamed her party. It’s the Front National’s final breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the entire establishment has turned against Le Pen with rapid speed. The leader of the Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon, and his number two have already endorsed Macron, saying that Le Pen will destroy France and warning voters that she and her allies are racist to the bone. It seems that the conservative Francois Fillon will soon do the same.

Head-to-head polls do indeed indicate that Macron will defeat Le Pen with relative ease, but it’s a completely different ballgame now, or so she will argue at least. The Front National has become a more or less mainstream party, and many conservative voters don’t recognize themselves in Macron’s blatant Europhile views; he blindly supports German Chancellor Angela Merkel and seems to believe that “more, more, more Europe” is the answer to every single problem facing his country. A lot of right-wing voters dare to differ.

In short, yes, Macron is far and away the favorite to win the second round, but Le Pen hasn’t lost quite yet. We saw in November what can happen when the establishment assumes a populist-nationalist movement can’t possibly win.

Be that as it may, Macron certainly is the big favorite. It’s an incredible achievement for a man with whom I disagree on virtually every single subject. He’s only 39 years old and he didn’t even have the backing of a party when he made clear he’d run. He single-handedly created this entire movement, and he did so by focusing on social media. It truly is amazing.

Now that doesn’t mean that his policies will be wonderful. Quite the opposite is true. With regards to the European Union, Macron is a Europhile if ever there was one. British media is already warning that he’ll try to make life impossible for Britain, which has voted to leave the EU. If Le Pen wins the second round, Brexit will be seen more favorably. With Macron as France’s president, that’s doubtful if not downright impossible.