Which candidate is the most dangerous for France?

Macron one year before the election: his strength is the weakness of his opponents

A good year before the presidential election in France, a second term in office seems to be within reach for Emmanuel Macron - despite all his mistakes in the Corona crisis. Because his most likely challenger is too controversial to win.

Emmanuel Macron has never hidden that he is aiming for re-election next year. Because the French President still has big plans: his reform program has not been implemented for a long time, and he has not yet fulfilled his promises in climate policy. The goal formulated in his inaugural address in front of the Louvre pyramid of revamping France's position in the world with an ambitious foreign and European policy has not yet been achieved either. Not only because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests of the yellow vests, much remained unfinished or had to be postponed.

In addition to an ambitious constitutional reform to strengthen civil rights, the waiting list includes a pension reform that has been postponed several times due to considerable resistance from the population. In its environmental and climate policy, Macron has already set the schedule well beyond the end of his first five-year term in office. From this point of view, a second mandate makes political sense. Another question is whether the voters see it that way and will again put their trust in him in May 2022 based on his results.

However, the presidential election in France has been functioning according to its own criteria at least since the era of Jacques Chirac. Since the right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen and then his daughter Marine got into the runoff election in 2002, this second round has become an - often frustrating - choice of the lesser evil for many voters. As in 2017, Macron is almost exclusively concerned with qualifying for the final round.

Le Pen is not the main opponent

All polls and forecasts indicate that the head of the Rassemblement national (formerly Front national), Marine Le Pen, will be his opponent, as in 2017. And since a majority of French people still do not want a head of state with an extremist xenophobic program, their opponents can consider themselves as good as elected in the runoff election. The Covid 19 crisis does not seem to have changed this in any of its social and economic consequences.

For Macron, the right-wing populist in this foreseeable constellation is therefore not the main opponent for the time being. It has a steady electorate and will only be able to increase the proportion of its sympathizers insignificantly even with a light version of its nationalist program. Rather, the President's priority is to keep all other candidates down if they have the slightest chance of making it into the round of voting in his place.

This risk exists both on his right and on his left, but especially with the green party Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV). Macron sees himself as neither left nor right and claims the political center for himself with his strategic balancing act. This policy brought him a majority in 2017, but it cannot be ruled out that an unexpected personality may emerge who knows how to rally the dissatisfied behind him.

Macron fears the Greens above all

Macron is therefore currently allowing his ministers and members of parliament to shoot arrows at all adversaries who could stand in his way. He has a particular eye on the Greens, who are on the rise and have achieved spectacular successes in the municipal mid-term elections. Not only the more moderate EELV boss Yannick Jadot, but also the red-green mayor of Grenoble, Éric Piolle, should be sidelined by criticizing their proposals as too radical or, if necessary, caricaturing them.

The president mockingly said of the green reservations against the rapid introduction of the 5G mobile communications standard: “There are people who tell us that the solution to the complex problems of our time is to return to the oil lamp. As for me, I don't believe in the Amish model. " And his close colleague, the EU parliamentarian Stéphane Séjourné, alluding to the Greens, said he did not want to "spend three months on the ship to travel to the USA" like the young climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The right is weakened, the left is divided

Macron are far less worried about the traditional parties. The conviction of former President Nicolas Sarkozy for bribing a judge has disqualified the most dangerous rival from the right. Several politicians are in the running for the top candidacy in the conservative Les Républicains party. But neither the former Justice Minister Rachida Dati nor the former government spokeswoman Valérie Pécresse nor the former Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand represent the entire political family.

It is difficult for them to break away from the line of government in traditional domains such as economic and security policy. This is not surprising, since important members of the government such as Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin from Sarkozy's party have joined Macron's La République en marche. Former socialists such as Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt, whose former party has been fighting for bare survival since 2017, also sit in the cabinet.

The weakness of the socialists and conservatives is turning into a strength of the president. Because it promotes radicalization on the right and division on the left. In the nationalist and anti-European camp, Marine Le Pen has no competition. Desperate unity appeals are increasing on the left. But neither Jean-Luc Mélenchon from La France insoumise nor Jadot from EELV or the various standard-bearers of left splinter parties are ready to give way to another left with better chances.

Many voters are dissatisfied with Macron

Nevertheless, Macron has cause for concern. Because of the errors and blatant organizational problems in the Covid 19 pandemic, his own electorate had doubts about his leadership qualities. In no other European country does the state leadership enjoy so little trust and support among the population when it comes to Covid-19 prevention as in France. The president can only say that no one else would have done better than his government and its experts.

Many of his sympathizers, who came to him from the left in 2017, are also protesting against a “right turn”, particularly because of the police violence at rallies. Will these former left-wing voters, who voted for Macron in 2017 out of conviction or in the absence of alternatives, stay at home in a year - even at the risk of bringing Marine Le Pen to power? This, at least, was threatened by disappointed Macron voters recently in the newspaper “Liberation” under the heading “I will not be fooled a second time”.

In the Élysée this was allegedly noted as a warning sign. There is supposed to be a completely different topic behind the scenes: What if the still young president wants to take office, but for personal reasons his wife Brigitte does not want to take on a second term as première dame? Macron would probably bring this into a dilemma that is difficult to solve.