WASHINGTON (April 5, 2022)—Starting April 10 French voters will have a chance to change the leadership of their country. Voters will select from 12 candidates, including the incumbent Emmanuel Macron who may become the first French president to win re-election in 20 years. However, with just days left right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen is rising in the polls to challenge Macron.

Erwan Lagadec is an associate research professor at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, where he leads Elliott School programs on EU and NATO affairs. Ahead of France’s election he offered this analysis. 

From the standpoint of electoral techniques, Macron has understood that the best way to secure and keep the presidency is to be the sole mainstream party left after the French elections' first round, and engineer/encourage a duel with a representative of the far-right or far-left extremes in the run-off. 

The question therefore is whether this Macron calculus is about to blow up in his face, if it turns out that by encouraging this narrative of a dilemma restricted to himself vs. the extremes, he's (a) sucked the remaining atmosphere out of all mainstream alternatives and (b) boosted the extremes to such an extent that they have become "unthinkably" likely winners in the run-off. From a historical perspective, for instance, the case can be made that there's a straight line between Blairism and the victory of the Brexit vote (as a reaction to the former's legacy), and from Clintonism to the "Trumpian mutiny".