As war rages in Ukraine, the party-gate shenanigans dominate conversations in the Westminster village and figures out this week show that of all the G7 economies, Britain’s is performing worst, it is not surprising that the election across the channel has had little or no major media coverage here.
But on Sunday the French people go to the polls in what we are told will be a close run-off between incumbent president Macron, and the leader of the National Front (or National rally as it is now formally known) Marie Le Pen. There is a genuine prospect that a nationalist who has expressed some pretty odious views on a whole range of issues during her political career could be preparing to lead the most influential European power by next week.
That Le Pen is Macron’s main opponent is, ironically, a testament to the presidents’ success in marginalising those political organisations that previously made up the French political mainstream.
When he swept to power five years ago with his new party En Marche, there was a feeling within the French and European establishment that he would be a five-minute wonder.
He has confounded those doubters, and in the first round of this year’s election only the democratic socialist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon won a respectable number of votes – missing out on the run-off by just 1.1%. Macron scored 27.8%, Le Pen 23.1%.
However, the rest of the presidential candidates list was reduced to a rump – with the next best performer, the far-right Reconquete party leader Eric Zemmour, scraping just over 7% of the poll.
It would appear though that, far from securing the ‘healing’ of the political discourse that Macron promised with his centrist approach IN 2017, his presidency has created an even greater chasm between left and right in France.
If he is successful in Sunday’s election, Macron would do well to reflect on that, and perhaps adopt a more conciliatory and inclusive culture of governance in his second term.
At a time when the geopolitical environment has never been so volatile, an election that has barely registered with the British public could throw another major tremor into the landscape.
The election of Le Pen would give Putin a boost, send shockwaves throughout Europe and the financial markets, and take the uncertainties that have plagued us for almost a decade now to another level.