Au Revoir, Macron! Marine Le Pen ‘poised to crush French President in 2022 election'

The coronavirus crisis is proving to be a challenging test for many leaders around the globe. While New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been showered with praise for her “master class” response to the pandemic, many have seen their ratings dramatically drop and could soon be fighting for their survival. This is the case of French President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has waned.

In July, Mr Macron’s approval rating dropped to 38 percent from 39 percent in June, and according to European affairs journalist Paul Taylor, his hopes for reelection in 2022 are incredibly slim.

Mr Taylor, who is also a senior fellow at the think-tank Friends of Europe, argued that while the young, centrist leader may have triumphed on the European stage by convincing Germany to embrace joint borrowing to power a giant EU recovery fund, at home, he now faces a tough crowd.

Meanwhile, far-right leader Marine Le Pen is waiting in the wings, ready to exploit a “wave of public anger over unemployment and living standards should Macron stumble”.

Mr Taylor wrote: “Despite massive government spending on furlough measures to cushion the immediate shock of a two-month nationwide lockdown, the French economy has been among the hardest hit in Europe.

“The European Commission is forecasting a 10.6 percent slump in French output this year, only slightly less steep than in Italy and Spain. The Bank of France expects a nine percent recession.

“Even with a big rebound next year, gross domestic product is unlikely to return to its pre-crisis level before the April 2022 presidential election, and the spectre of mass unemployment is back.”

In his piece for Politico, Mr Taylor also noted that crisis spending is set to raise France’s public debt — already at 100 percent of GDP before the pandemic — to more than 120 percent.

Mr Macron said the additional “COVID debt” would be corralled in a separate account and paid down over the very long term, but while financing debt is not a problem for France, it will give Mr Macron little scope for manoeuvre.

Mr Taylor conceded that “whatever path he chooses will be the result of difficult economic choices”, before adding that if the world’s sixth-largest economy is truly going to get back on a sound footing, it will need a completely new model.

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He continued: “Given a national culture of sometimes violent protest, which has dogged Macron’s efforts to reform labour law, pensions and carbon taxation, his reshuffled government under new Prime Minister Jean Castex faces a winter of discontent as layoffs pile up, companies go to the wall and a coronavirus generation of school and college-leavers struggles to find work.

“With an election less than two years away, Macron will come under extreme pressure to give way to political expediency.

“The President has not enjoyed the same coronavirus boost in the polls as leaders in Germany, Italy or even the UK, despite Britain’s poorer record in fighting the virus.

“Polls show many voters blame him for an initial lack of masks, respirators and protective clothing, and believe his administration lied to the public about shortages.

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“Despite his efforts to project a more compassionate, listening image, he is still widely seen as a technocratic ‘president of the rich’.”

Mr Taylor also noted that despite Ms Le Pen’s National Rally somewhat falling in the polls during the coronavirus crisis, she may recover lost ground as the social cost of the pandemic bites.

He concluded: “Left-wing voters may stay home rather than vote for Macron in the runoff, as they did in 2017.

“Macron will need an economic miracle, and a lot of luck with the pandemic, to keep his crown, and keep France, out of Le Pen’s hands.”

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