In the spring of 2022 there will be an election for the President of France. Currently it seems as if Macron, the current holder of the position, will be faced against Marine La Pen for this position. They are both polling as the potential finalists in this coming election by a large margin.
Macron, the current president of France, is in a tough position as he has dealt with many crises in his time as the leader of this country. He has had to deal with mass protests, the covid-19 pandemic, and all the while his nation has been rocked many times by terrorist attacks. This last crisis has been the focal point of this election so far as leaders debate a response to Islamic extremism.
Macron has begun to take a much more hardline approach to this topic which has led many to believe he is seeking to steal from La Pen’s voter base. This does seem to be the case. However, this will play out badly for him if this is his strategy.
First of all, Macron came to power as a centrist reformer. This means that he has gotten a lot of votes from the left in his previous election because of his centrism. It made him much more appealing than the far-right under La Pen in the last election. He risks losing these left votes with his new tactics and evolving harder stance on Islam and immigration.
Perhaps he thinks he has already lost those votes with measures such as the tax cuts to the wealthy as they seem to be bearing no fruit. Maybe he figures he needs to cut bait and move on. After all, this, combined with economic inequality and his crackdown on the yellow-vest protestors seem to have lost him a lot of public goodwill. Regardless, this will be the wrong approach. He has a much easier job of trying to bring these people back into the fold to support his side than La Pen does. It will be a much harder job to undermine La Pen’s base.
Second of all, Macron is legitimizing La Pen’s rhetoric by echoing it or seeking to outdo her on her stance on Islam. In a debate ,Gérald Darmanin, the Minister of the Interior accused her of “softness” on Islam. This was a big mistake, and major pundits and news outlets seem to be in unison on this. La Pen has been seeking credibility and a distancing from the kind of party the National Rally used to be under her father. She wants to be seen as rational and credible in the eyes of French voters.This was a big step in that direction and the only thing more perfect would be if it had been out of Macron’s mouth himself.
Thirdly, he could be undermining his own base. After all, people chose him over La Pen last time because of his platform. He needs to stick to his identity and not play around too much. A study by IFOP shows he definitely has more of a negative image than a positive one. However, when looking at the data, it is not so negative that he needs to rework or reinvent himself. There are changes to be made for sure, just not as drastic as he seems to be toying with.
In reality Macron needs to prioritize dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic as people have been frustrated and protests have been rampant during these lockdowns. This has been a major source of frustration for the French public, especially considering the fact that economic inequality (which has only gotten worse with corona) has been a major source of anger towards Macron.
Finally, he needs to shore up and solidify public support towards his bill on combating Islamic extremism. The National Assembly sent it through with a good number of the votes meaning many in France support some measure of response to the overwhelming attacks France has gone through. He just needs to convince more of the general populace that this is a rational approach to dealing with a very real issue in France. He doesn’t need to be more extreme or attempt to imitate the far-right in order to get his point across or gain support for himself or his party.