Marine Le Pen didn’t achieve quite the shock result in this year’s French presidential election that some thought she might when a few polls showed her ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy. But, even though she didn’t make it through to this weekend’s run-off, the National Front candidate did win 17.9 per cent of the first round vote. That means there are 6.4 million Le Pen voters for Sarkozy and Francois Hollande to fight over, putting her in a potentially very influential position. Sarkozy — currently trailing Hollande by six to ten points in the polls — has been particularly keen to court those voters, saying in a radio interview today, for example, that France has taken in too many immigrants. The current President might’ve hoped that Le Pen would advise her supporters to back him over his Socialist rival.
But it wasn’t to be. Speaking to a National Front rally at the Place de l’Opera in Paris, Le Pen announced that she wouldn’t be voting for either candidate on Sunday. ‘I have no confidence in, nor will I give a mandate to, these two candidates,’ she said. ‘Each one of you will make your own choice according to your heart, your conscience, and your feelings.’
As you’d expect, Sarkozy is winning the battle for National Front voters, although not as handily as he’d like. Taking an average of recent polls, 48 per cent of them say they’ll vote for him against 21 per cent for Hollande. 31 per cent say they’ll follow Le Pen’s example and vote for neither. That wouldn’t be nearly enough for Sarkozy to secure re-election, though, especially as Hollande can count on the vast majority of fourth-placed Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon’s 4 million voters (he’s on 84 per cent with them to Sarko’s 4 per cent). The other large block of potential swing voters are the 3.3 million who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou. Right now, it looks like Sarkozy and Hollande will split them pretty much evenly (37-36). The dilemma facing Sarkozy in these final few days of the campaign is that the further right he tacks to court Le Pen’s voters, the less appealing he may become to Bayrou’s.