Macron vs Le Pen: France is no longer one country

06 May 2017 12:17 pm

The latest opinion polls had Emmanuel Macron extending his lead in the polls over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Friday. An Ifop-Fiducial survey on Friday afternoon, hours before official campaigning closed at midnight, showed Macron on course to win 63 percent of votes in the second round and Le Pen 37 percent, the best score for Macron recorded by a major polling organization since mid-April. Four other polls earlier in the day put the centrist on 62 percent and Le Pen on 38 percent, and a fifth showed Macron on 61.5 percent, as his second-round campaign gained ground following a stuttering start last week.

That’s a bigger margin than what we saw before the surprise Brexit and Trump victories so all signs are pointing to a Macron victory.

But the reality is France no longer exists as one country.

As in the US and the UK, it’s not just a rift between the traditional left and right. The situation in France reflects divisions - cultural, social, and economic - that came with globalization and mass migration.

Le Pen’s base is in the north-west of France. It’s one part of the country where rates of unemployment are high and it’s filled with blue-collar workers on welfare. It’s an area where antagonism between Muslims and non-Muslims is high. People who voted for Le Pen seem to feel not only that they lost their jobs. They also feel they are becoming foreigners in their own country.

Macron’s constituency lies in the big cities like Paris and Bordeaux, places where the better jobs are.

Christophe Guilluy, the author of Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut explains the divisions now dividing France.

“The job market has become deeply polarised and mainly concentrated in big cities, squeezing out the middle classes. For the first time in history, working people no longer live in the places where jobs and wealth are created,” he says.

“Those groups, which have lost out due to globalisation, no longer identify with traditional political parties. The rift between the global market’s winners and losers has replaced the old right-left split. This social and political divide coincides with a visible faultline between global centres plugged into the world economy and deprived outlying areas.”

All discussion about the election overlooks the real problems facing France today.

France's unemployment rate stands at 9.9 per cent (compared to 3.9 per cent Germany and 4.7 per cent in Great Britain).
French GDP growth is one of the weakest of Eurozone, standing at 1.1 per cent vs 1.7 per cent for the eurozone, and 1.9 per cent for EU).

And France's public debt, which accounted for 89.5 per cent of GDP in 2012, is expected to reach 96 per cent of GDP in 2017.

So the country will continue to struggle economically, people will still lose jobs and the resentment against Muslims will continue.

The problem is Macron could well turn into a lame-duck leader. As Bloomberg explains, Macron and Marine Le Pen head non-establishment political movements that are unlikely to get majorities in the legislative elections that follow in June. Should either become France’s president, they’d be forced to seek uncomfortable alliances with rivals, or risk five years of limbo.

My forecast: Macron will win on Sunday, France will spend the next 5 years rudderless. That could see Le Pen winning in 2022.

On Sunday, more than 228 years after the French Revolution, the rest of the world will be watching the results of the election that could change the destiny of France



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