The Speaker
Friday, 12 April 2024 – 14:49

Who are the candidates in France’s Presidential Election?

French voters will head to the polls on Sunday (10th April) for the first round of the presidential election contest. 12 candidates are vying for the keys to the Elysee Palace including incumbent president, and current frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron. 

Macron will be vying to become the first French President to win a second term since Jacques Chirac, who held the position from 1995-2007. 

Macron, who took office in 2017, has led the polls throughout the contest, but right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen has made a late surge in the polls leading to a very real possibility that the incumbent could be defeated. 


Emmanuel Macron

The current President, Macron, is the favourite to win both the first and second round of the election. He is the leader of the La République En Marche! party; a centrist party formed in 2016. Historically, France’s politics has been dominated by the centre-left Parti socialiste, and the centre-right Les Républicains party, but in the last election cycle these parties dropped massively in support, with Macron comfortably winning the presidential election with 66% of votes in the second round.

Macron’s position was strengthened by the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, with voters more likely to support a candidate experienced in foreign diplomacy. However, as time has gone on this increase in support has diminished and the election is expected to be much closer this time around.


Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen is Macron’s greatest threat, just as she was in the last election when she got through to the second round to face-off against Macron. Le Pen is the leader of Rassemblement National (formerly known as the Front National), a far-right party which was founded and originally led by Marine Le Pen’s father. The party, for a long-time, was more-or-less irrelevant in French politics, but in 2017, in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis which stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe the party surged to second place in the presidential election, though still drawing only limited support in the subsequent general election.

Le Pen has also had a recent burst in support as a result of the war in Ukraine. The other large far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, has lost large swathes of his supporters due to his unwavering support of Putin preceding the invasion. These erstwhile Zemmour supporters have flocked to his nearest policy-neighbour; Le Pen.

Unlike the last election in which Le Pen drew around half the votes of Macron, Le Pen is now polling far closer – as little as 6% less than Macron if she gets to the second round, which she is expected to.


Eric Zemmour

The most controversial candidate in the race, former broadcaster and author Eric Zemmour is making his first foray into electoral politics by tacking as far to the right as we have seen in any liberal democracy throughout the supposed populist period of the last half-decade. 

There was a time where Zemmour was seen as a potential candidate for the runoff, peaking at around 18% in first preference polling at the turn of the year, and around 30-40% in runoff polling; this would put him at a similar level to the final result that Le Pen achieved in 2017. Whilst his support has dropped off in recent weeks, his highwater mark and the subsequent rise in support for Le Pen suggests that far from French politics and far-right views receding since 2017, populist right-wing views are continuing to define contemporary French politics.

Zemmour has several convictions for inciting racial hatred, including one as recently as February 20222, where he was fined €10,000 for comments about migrant children.



Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Mélenchon is the leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise. He is a veteran of French politics having served as a senator, a minister of the National Assembly, and as a member of the European parliament. He is currently polling in third place and is not expected to make the second round of elections ahead of Le Pen, although nothing is certain in politics.


Valerie Pecresse

One of the earlier frontrunners to make the runoff, Pecresse is the President of the Regional Council of Île-de-France, making her the leader of France’s most populous district. Pecresse is the nominee for the Republicans Party, which sits on the centre-right of French politics.

She is the party’s first female nominee for president, but her initial strong polling has dropped off as Le Pen’s support has rallied. At the turn of the year she was battling it out with Le Pen for second place and the crucial runoff spot, but her support has collapsed after two major aides left the campaign and subsequently endorsed Macron.


Other Candidates

There will be a total of 12 candidates on the ballot in the first round of the presidential election, with many familiar faces in French politics running for the second or even third time. Many of these candidates are eccentric to say the least, with former shepherd Jean Lassalle perhaps the most interesting of the remaining candidates. The leader of the anti-Capitalist party Philippe Poutou will also be on the ballot, as will the Communist Party’s Fabien Roussel.


What is likely to happen?

Most pollsters and bookies place Macron as the favourite to win, and he does almost certainly have the most actual supporters. However, while France typically has a large turnout, ~80%, for presidential elections, the enthusiasm which brought Macron to the presidency as something fresh and new may be missing this time around as he is the incumbent, along with polls suggesting he will win potentially lulling his supporters into a false sense of security.

Further to this, polls suggest that as many as 50% of Mélenchon supporters plan to abstain in a Macron vs Le Pen second round, meaning that a good turnout for Le Pen and a poor turnout for Macron could cause an upset in 2022’s largest European election.





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