x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Macron’s gamble may yet backfire on Sunday

Cedomir Nestorovic forecasts who will win in France's presidential election

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche ! and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, leaving his home in Paris. Benoit Tessier / Reuters
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche ! and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, leaving his home in Paris. Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Emmanuel Macron will very probably be the next president of France, not only because he won the highest number of votes during the first round of elections last week but also because all political leaders from the left and right side of the spectrum asked the republic to vote for him on Sunday.

People will vote for Mr Macron either because they consider that he is the best candidate for the position of French president or because they do not want Marine Le Pen to be the president. The broad political tradition is that people vote in favour of a candidate of their choice during the first round of elections and against the candidate they do not want during the second round.

Mr Macron wants to change this tradition and wants people to vote for him during the second round. He does not want to be a president by default.

This is understandable because he wants to build a party around him for the next parliamentary elections next month and the only way to do it is to gel together supporters coming from various political parties.

He wants the absolute majority in the parliament and rejects the possibility of coalitions, especially with Les Republicains and the Socialist Party.

This is where the conundrum begins. If he asks for a negative vote – a vote against Marine Le Pen – he would secure a comfortable victory.

Political leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Fillon asked voters to cast their ballots for Mr Macron, but their party, Les Republicains (which won 20 per cent of votes with Mr Fillon), asked their supporters to vote against Ms Le Pen and stopped short of asking them to vote in favour of Mr Macron.

Jean-Luc Melenchon (who won 19 per cent of votes) did the same as Les Republicains, not asking for a vote in favour of the leading presidential candidate. This is exactly what Mr Macron does not want.

He wants a positive vote that would permit him to engage the parliamentary elections next month.

On the other hand, political leaders from the right and left wonder how they can ask their supporters to vote for Mr Macron now, when in one month’s time they will engage another fight against him in parliamentary elections.

If Les Republicains and Mr Melenchon do not ask voters to vote for Mr Macron, many of their supporters will feel free either to abstain, to vote nil or even to vote for Ms Le Pen.

Nicolas DuPont-Aignan (who won 4.5 per cent of votes) joined Ms Le Pen, and a number of former right- wing ministers in openly support her.

This is a radical change compared to the situation of 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen did not benefit from any support out of his core electoral base.

So Mr Macron is trapped now. Because he insists on a vote for him and nothing else, he risks turning away some potential voters.

This is a risky strategy but the only way for him to insert himself into the parliamentary electionsnext month.

Dr Cedomir Nestorovic is a professor at the ESSEC Business School in Singapore