The director of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, Gilles Finchelstein, in Paris, February 17, 2022 (AFP / JOEL SAGET)
In the event of a second round of presidential elections between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, calls for the formation of a Republican front should appear, but to think that this spring, “hollowed out”, “will be enough is a illusion,” explains the director of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, Gilles Finchelstein, to AFP.
QUESTION: With a duel between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron looming, should we expect Sunday night to block the formation of a massive Republican front of the far right?
ANSWER: “First of all, you have to remember that Emmanuel Macron didn’t use it in 2017, when there were probably more resources then than today…while now it’s hollowed out from above and below.
From above, it was when the UMP had gone to the “ni-ni”, so given that they did not vote in a runoff election between the National Front and the Socialist Party (especially during the 2012 parliamentary elections, Ed). And when Jean-Luc Mélenchon, at the time of the strategy change stating that the real divide was now the people against the oligarchy, did the same in the second rounds between the Front National and the PS (from 2015, Ed) .
And it’s been eroded from the bottom up, with voters mobilizing less strongly in runoffs with the National Front.
But that doesn’t mean he’s gone. It remains a feather. If he had disappeared, there wouldn’t be many reasons for a left-wing voter to vote for Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen in a runoff election.
To think in retrospect that activating this lever is enough on its own is an illusion. Because Marine Le Pen’s image change is a reality.”
Question: Has Marine Le Pen managed to dull the idea of a Republican front by smoothing out her image?
A: “It was partially successful. Marine Le Pen’s personality has become sympathetic. In the results of our latest survey, she was the second most likable candidate considered (Editor’s Note: 29% of French say sympathetic to her, behind Emmanuel Macron at 32%).
But she is still a candidate of concern to a majority of French people, even if it is less so than five years ago (51%, up from 53% in April 2017, Ed).
And similarly, 66% of French people place the far right on the left-right scale (up from 80% in April 2017, Ed). So there are remnants. You should not think that she has become a candidate for public opinion, just like the others.”
Q: To what extent is the concept of a Republican front divisive within parties and voters?
A: “I’m not sure if voters are more divided by Marine Le Pen than Emmanuel Macron. This is what is disturbing in what has happened for 2-3 weeks, it is the resentment of the left electorate against Emmanuel Macron.
After that, there is no transfer of the electorate from Mélenchon to Le Pen in the first round. The porosity between these voters there, contrary to what is said, is non-existent. However, in the game of second-round rejections, there will be a larger proportion of Mélenchon’s electorate in 2022 than in 2017 that could vote for Marine Le Pen. But this remains a minority: we are going from just over 10% (of the LFI candidate’s electorate) to just over 20%. On the other hand, what may matter is the expected abstinence.
Interview by Jérémy MAROT