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Emmanuel Macron is heading for a thumping victory in the French elections next month. Right? All the polls suggest that he is a shoo-in, that his superb presidential diplomacy over Ukraine, and his tête a têtes with President Putin, has seen him tower over his rivals, particularly those on the extreme left and extreme right.
That poor Valerie Pecresse, first female candidate for president from the centre-right Republicain party, has been overshadowed as Macron soars as high as Jupiter in the heavens.
But if you dig behind the polls, things are more complicated.
In an excellent piece in the FT, Victor Mallet demonstrates just how deep France’s social divisions run. The two-round election – on April 10 and 24 – could get interesting.
Mallet writes: “La Ricamarie is the kind of post-industrial town where the liberal president Emmanuel Macron and other establishment politicians from centre-left to centre-right are scorned by residents living with the bitter legacy of poverty, unemployment and bad housing left by the closure of coal mines and factories since the 1970s […] All this is rich pickings for the far right.
“Every opinion poll suggests Macron is likely to win another five-year term at the Elysée Palace in the French elections, which begin on April 10. But the lingering resentment towards the Paris elite in places such as La Ricamarie suggests a Macron victory would not for long suppress the anger in French society that erupted with the anti-government gilets jaunes protests, or defang the extremist French politicians who try to exploit it.”
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Macron may still be favourite, but his failure to debate or address economic and social issues is making him look increasingly out of touch with the electorate. His right-wing rival Marine Le Pen is closing the gap, up three points in a week, according to the latest polls. They show the President winning narrowly in a repeat of the 2017 run-off against Le Pen, when Macron waltzed home. Things may not be as simple this time round.