Jonathan Miller

    Is this the end of Marine Le Pen?

    Macron's victory seems to be preordained

    Is this the end of Marine Le Pen?
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    Today’s election in France is likely to be a joyless, miserable affair for the electors who will dutifully turn out. The outcome is preordained. French voters who supported the re-election of Emmanuel Macron are unlikely to exhibit much enthusiasm when he wins tonight. If there are fireworks in the streets this evening, they’ll probably be aimed at the police.

    Those who voted for Marine Le Pen will have equally little to celebrate. They may avert the humiliation of the 66-34 per cent defeat in 2017. But this will be the third successive defeat for Mme Le Pen, following five failed runs by her papa, Jean-Marie Le Pen. This hereditary candidacy is well beyond its best-by date.

    I’ll forecast tonight’s result, just as a hostage to fortune – because in just a few hours I’ll be proven right or probably wrong. Macron, lately called Poudré here to draw attention to the comparison with a powdered Bourbon king, will prevail, I rashly predict, with something like 55 to 45 per cent against ‘Cat Woman’, as the cynical dub Le Pen.

    Her inevitable defeat, by any margin, surely must be definitive confirmation that she is the wrong leader of the right-wing presidential opposition in France. Many on the right pray she will retire, to spend more time with her cats, relaxing the family’s grip on what’s more a clan than a party.

    The final polls all put Emmanuel Macron at the top of voting intentions. After Wednesday night’s marathon debate, which is being scored by most here as a victory for Macron, the president seems to have consolidated his lead but most minds have been decided and I don’t sense much last-minute momentum either way. Le Pen might have lost the debate on points but she probably came across as more human than Macron and wasn’t humiliated as she’d been in 2017. The debate was exhausting but not a game changer.

    Although we shall learn this evening who shall be the next president, we will not learn very much about the next government. In June there will be further elections for the National Assembly. The participants and the party lists are not finalised. The left and right, defeated for the highest office, will seek to redeem themselves in elections in which they may do well. Macron’s coattails seem extremely short.

    Politically, it might be on the left where some sort of revival could emerge. The obnoxious but indefatigable Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of far left La France Insoumise, who came third in the first round with a respectable 22 per cent, not far behind Le Pen, believes he can seize the Assembly. ‘I ask the French to elect me Prime Minister,’ he has declared.

    His project is ‘a beautiful battle’ to elect ‘a majority of rebellious deputies’ under the banner of a new People's Union of the left, he says.

    Macron’s arrogance is likely to be reinforced rather than tempered by his re-election, the first by an incumbent president since 2002. He only bothered to hold a single election rally saying he was preoccupied with Ukraine, but he’s spent months promising enormous state spending on schools, security, energy and defence. He now faces a cost of living crisis, his proposed pension reforms look shaky and the unknown unknowns include the war and the virus.

    His victory is de jure rather than a triumph of the democratic will of French people. The cluster of crises confronting France requires remedies, leadership and political legitimacy that the re-elected president doesn’t evidently possess, even if Le Pen might well have been even more hopeless.

    Written byJonathan Miller

    Jonathan Miller, who lives near Montpellier, is the author of ‘France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (Gibson Square). His Twitter handle is: @lefoudubaron

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