Emmanuel Macron may face 'harder' election opponent says expert
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And Dr Joseph Downing, an LSE Fellow in Nationalism at the LSE’s European Institute, said such was the impact Mr Bertrand had made as a result of his strong showing in France’s recent regional elections that next year’s election was “his to lose” – especially given Mr Macron’s “extreme unpopularity”. With both his Le Marche and Ms Le Pen’s far-right National Rally performed dismally in the elections, held on June 20 and June 27 across 17 French regions, from Ile-de-France, which includes Paris, to Guadaloupe, the Caribbean island which is one of France’s overseas departments.
By contrast, Mr Bertrand, of Les Republicains (the Republicans) was convincingly re-elected as the President of the Regional Council of the Hautes-de-France region, picking up 52.37 percent of the vote – more than double that of closest rival, National Rally’s Sebastien Chenu.
Dr Downing told Express.co.uk: “It is very interesting because to a certain degree his party are slightly lukewarm on him with some sources calling for a open Republican primary to select a candidate:
“However, this non-withstanding, I think the election could well be his to lose.”
He explained: “Macron is extremely unpopular and Le Pen it seems has failed to capture the imagination of the mainstream.
“At this point we can say that her rebranding of her party has been a failure.
“Additionally, a right-wing candidate would be ‘right’ enough to split the possible support of both Macron and Le Pen.”
He added: “This may have been a disadvantage in previous elections.
“But after the trauma of both Covid but also the nine months prior of protests and shutdowns in response to Macrons rule, the French may want safety and continuity more so than in previous years.”
Dr Downing admitted his surprise that a credible challenger had not emerged sooner, saying of the Republicans: ”They have been remarkably sluggish.
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“I think if they had put in an old tarnished face like Sarkozy or Juppe, Le Pen could have won.
“With Bertrand she’s over for this election unless he has something #MeToo sexual harassment related in the closet or some financial irregularities circa Fillon and the fake jobs scandal last time, as he was the clear favourite last time and his demise really handed It to Macron.”
Speaking after his strong showing, Mr Bertrand told business daily Les Echos: “Now the presidential contest is a three-horse race.
The former salesman claimed his party provided a bulwark against the far right, earlier saying he had “smashed the jaws of the Front National”, referring to the old name of Le Pen’s party.
An IPSOS/Sopra Steria poll published on June 27 showed Bertrand’s popularity climbing nationwide.
It projected he would win 18 percent of the first round presidential vote, up several points on previous polls and narrowing the gap on Macron and Le Pen.
A survey published by OpinionWay, also on June 27, put Mr Macron on 26 percent, Ms Le Pen on 24 percent, and Mr Bertrand on 20 percent.
Mr Bertrand paints himself as a straight-talker capable of connecting with voters in provincial France.
Speaking last month, one Republican politician said: “He needs to make the centre-right electorate who left us for Macron want to vote for him.
“But he’s not the most glamorous of candidates, and that matters somewhat.”
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