France's mainstream unites for Macron as Le Pen reaches for outsiders

  • France's mainstream unites for Macron as Le Pen reaches for outsiders

France's mainstream unites for Macron as Le Pen reaches for outsiders

No sooner had Marine Le Pen taken to the stage to greet her adoring supporters than the rest of the French political system was already moving against her. You can say that Emmanuel Macron, with his new party, En Marche!, François Fillon, the candidate of the classic right and Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party candidate, who was the only participant to discuss the effects of the digital revolution on work and who proposed a universal income, represented optimism.

France's Presidential election hands the country a momentous choice: between the pro-EU centrist liberal Emmanuel Macron, and the Euroskeptic anti-Islam populist Marine Le Pen.

Despite Macron getting 8.4 million votes to Le Pen's 7.6 million, French Jews were left in a state of unease this week after analysts disagreed over who those voting for defeated candidates Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melanchon would now back.

In a word, no.

If Emmanuel Macron succeeds in the second round on 7 May, which he is now favourite to do, he is likely to drive a hard bargain in Brexit negotiations. We can't be sure - but every poll taken so far gives Macron a commanding lead.

The country is going to the polls to elect the successor to Mr Hollande, who is not running after serving a single term in office.

Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, made it to the second round against Jacques Chirac in 2002 and was crushed in the runoff.

The next round will see two radically different visions.

Dov Maimon, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, whose area of expertise is French Jewry, had been convinced early on that Fillon would be the favored candidate among Israelis with French citizenship.

"Le Pen relegated to second place".

His daughter has done much to soften the National Front's image, gathering support especially among young people - a quarter of whom are unemployed - with her promises to push back against "rampant globalisation".

And it benefits Macron, too.

Macron's internal security programme calls for 10,000 more police officers, and 15,000 new prison places, and he has recruited a number of security experts to his entourage.

Sunday's first round capped an extraordinary campaign in a demoralised France, which has been rocked by a series of terror attacks since 2015 and is struggling to shake off a deep economic malaise. More than 50 percent of French nationals in auto and Madagascar abstained from Sunday's vote, while the figure went up to 63 percent in Guinea, according to RFI.

One of Macron's chief concerns will be turnout.

Far-left firebrand Mélenchon, whose popularity surged in the final weeks of the race following impressive performances in the television debates, has so far refused to concede defeat, but said he would accept the final results when they came in.

That French voters should have been somewhat coy about their intentions is understandable.

Le Pen's closest aides were out and about on morning media shows pressing that point and saying that those who backed Melenchon were within reach for Le Pen.

A one-on-one against an ex-banker backed by politicians of all stripes wanting to form a dam against the FN gives Le Pen the ideal opportunity to boost her anti-establishment appeal, even if pollsters say that is not enough for her to win.