Should defeated candidates endorse Macron?

After the first round of voting in France a debate has flared up over the dilemma faced by those who want to block Le Pen without supporting Macron. While the third-placed runner-up Fillon has urged his supporters to vote for Macron, the fourth-placed Mélenchon has been reluctant to make the same call. Commentators disagree on the best stance to take ahead of Sunday's runoff vote.

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Público (PT) /

Don't take Mélenchon's voters for fools

Público is among the media that harshly criticise such attempts to influence voters:

“Almost everyone is trying to redistribute the votes of those who supported the defeated far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. … But each of those votes belongs to someone who voted for Mélenchon. Period. It is insulting and irrational to try to treat these voters as if they were a herd. They have already voted against Emmanuel Macron and Le Pen. … Moreover, the votes of the Mélenchon supporters - as the well-known economist Thomas Piketty recently demonstrated mathematically - won't be needed to beat Le Pen. It will suffice for them to simply not vote for Le Pen. And they certainly won't do that! Some Mélenchon voters will naturally vote for Macron - because they want to. Therein lies the subtle distinction.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Why Varoufakis is backing Macron

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has joined the ranks of well-known personalities calling on voters to support Emmanuel Macron. In a guest commentary for Le Monde the left-wing politician justifies his decision:

“By crushing the Greek Spring, the troika not only delivered a blow to Greece, but also to the integrity and spirit of Europe. Emmanuel Macron was the only member of the system who spoke out against it. I consider it my duty to encourage progressive French voters, when they enter (or don't enter) the polling booth in the second round of the presidential election, to make their choice with this in mind. As for me, my promise to Emmanuel is the following: I will do all I can to help you beat Le Pen, and I will put as much energy into the next 'Nuits debout' demonstrations against your government when - and if - as president you go on trying to push through your neoliberalism, which is already a failure.”

El País (ES) /

Abstention vote extremely dangerous

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is one of the main reasons behind the dangerous surge in support for Le Pen in recent polls, writes El País:

“Particularly inexcusable is the collaboration of the far left under Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose anti-globalist, anti-European and Chavist statements support Le Pen's discourse. His annoying ambiguity after the first round about calling for people to vote against Le Pen was the latest and most clamorous show of support for the far right. It's no use for him to warn now, in the final stretch, against the threat the Front National poses. He has sown the seed of abstention, the same seed that secured victory for Brexit. A number of conservatives are also openly demanding the right to abstain now, omitting the fact that this will only help Le Pen.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Accept decision to say no to Macron

Le Quotidien takes a different view, explaining that those who vote for Macron are not only blocking a far-right president but also endorsing the current system:

“The former banker is by no means a spontaneous candidate. His backers, who clearly come from the left as well as the right - as long as they come from the elite -, all believe that Macron is the perfect candidate for promoting their interests: a controllable and docile 'liberal' who would allow the French technostructure to preserve the foundations of a system that has been in place for decades. Voting for Emmanuel Macron is perhaps blocking Marine Le Pen, but it's also condoning a system that wants to dictate to people what they must think and for whom they must vote. So let's give people the option of not participating in the election of a prefabricated candidate.”

Avgi (GR) /

Macron could pave the way for Le Pen

Columnist Giannis Kibouropoulos warns of a political crisis after the parliamentary elections in June in the daily paper Avgi:

“A few weeks after Macron's anticipated election victory he may end up failing to achieve a majority in the French National Assembly. This could cause on the one hand a state crisis and on the other a social crisis, as the success of Mélenchon and Le Pen with the poorest and the unemployed shows. … This social crisis is the true breeding ground for the major political changes in France, the total restructuring of its politics. The neoliberal politician Macron may ultimately - despite certain victory in the second round - turn out to become Le Pen's biggest 'supporter' in the third round [the parliamentary elections], with unforeseeable consequences for all of Europe.”

Causeur (FR) /

Mélenchon's reticence is wise

The candidates defeated in the first round don't necessarily have to endorse Macron, writes blogger David Desgouilles in Causeur with reference to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth:

“Just a few weeks ago Marine Le Pen was the candidate with the best chances among young voters. Mélenchon ousted her from that position. ... These voters will now give the FN their vote. If Mélenchon were to openly endorse Emmanuel Macron now he would lose those voters for good and thus destroy all his efforts. By being reticent about who he will vote for he is proving that he knows the two-round majority voting system, whose logic demands humility vis-à-vis the voters: sometimes you simply have to accept that you are the second choice. And you also have to accept that your voters will make a decision after the first round that you don't like at all.”

Magyar Demokrata (HU) /

The only protest vote is a vote for Le Pen

The French voters won't be consistent enough to vote for Le Pen, laments the right-wing conservative weekly Demokrata:

“Macron is also a product of the rebellion against the current political system. ... But it seems the rebellion in France won't be allowed to go so far as electing Marine Le Pen to president. It's the usual dreadful smear theatre: in the second round the left and the right will close ranks against the Front National, which has been branded extremist. ... Nonetheless Marine Le Pen, who is the only one to have provided real answers to real questions in the election campaign, is the big winner of this year's presidential election. Of all the candidates she is the one voters believe would take effective action against immigration and terrorism.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Candidate must not disappoint his supporters

Very high expectations are now being placed on Macron, De Standaard comments:

“The lightning speed with which French politics has rallied behind the youthful victor of the first round only justifies Le Pen's 'all the same' argument. And the patent relief on the part of Europe's leaders has only strengthened this signal. There is now only one candidate outside the political consensus, and that is Le Pen. If she still holds a trump card in her hand, this is it. ... It would be more than rash to conclude that the wave of right-wing populism in Europe has subsided. So Emmanuel Macron bears a huge responsibility. A young, open, optimistic movement has put him on the road to power. Perhaps his ideas for a renewed France can spark a new beginning in Europe. But if he disappoints this still young movement, history will be hard on him.”

Právo (CZ) /

Security is Macron's Achilles heel

Emmanuel Macron would do well not to underestimate Marine Le Pen, Právo warns with an eye to the topics that could decide the second round:

“The finale Macron vs. Le Pen will on the one hand be a battle over the future of the EU. Between a politician who defends integration and his rival who wants out of the Eurozone and a referendum on France's remaining in the EU. But the duel will also be a dispute over security and the fight against extremism. After two years of an unprecedented wave of terror, this topic cannot be separated from the refugee crisis. That's the ace up Le Pen's sleeve. If he wants to score a convincing victory, Macron, who approves of Brussels' current refugee policy, will have to persuade the French that he too can guarantee security. That will be a tough nut to crack.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

France clinging to its saviour

The French see Macron as the straw they can clutch to avoid drowning in right-wing populism, Cumhuriyet explains:

“Because a section of the traditional right-wing voters and a large majority of the left-wing voters - fortunately - continue to prefer progressive neoliberalism to reactionary populism, Macron will - without having said hardly anything of real relevance and without ever having run for office - be elected president on the basis of a few vague phrases. … French society has realised that from now on right-wing extremism will play a major role on the political stage and is trying to suppress this by clinging to a saviour who has wrapped up a programme that is virtually devoid of content in the incessantly repeated phrases renewal, dynamism and change.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Discontent won't disappear

De Volkskrant is also sceptical and fears that France will remain divided even if Macron wins:

“A country full of discontent, difficult to govern and lacking in direction. Le Pen sees the final round as a fight between 'patriots' and 'globalists' - who were never popular in France. … Immigration and lacking border controls have become difficult topics in a country which has been hit by attacks at its very heart. … The state of emergency remains in effect for now. A look at elections elsewhere reveals parallels, the same reasons for discontent. Immigration is one, the economy another. … While politicians are still seeking answers to the mega-trends, the citizens are settling scores at the polling stations. And sometimes they doubt the value of democracy. Macron's victory is good news and a hopeful sign. But if we look closely we see that the state of emergency applies for the West as a whole.”

The New York Times (US) /

Message of hope must be followed by deeds

The future not only of France but of all Europe depends on whether Macron can bring about real change after his election, The New York Times believes:

“France may be entering a new, fractured political era, but on Sunday its voters showed that they remained receptive to Mr. Macron's hopeful message, including his openness to immigrants and diversity, despite a recent spate of terrorist attacks and Ms. Le Pen's dark campaign. Mr. Macron said on Sunday that he wanted to be the 'president of patriots, to face the threat of nationalists,' holding himself out as France's true agent of change after decades of government failure. France will now face a stark choice on May 7, and hopes for Europe will ride not just on a win by Mr. Macron, but on his subsequent success in delivering on his commitment.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Flagging Front National facing crisis

Sunday's election results could put the Front National to the test, political scientist Florent Gougou writes in Le Monde:

“Paradoxically, Marine Le Pen's making it into the second round of the presidential elections could put a stop to the dynamic she infused the party with when she took over as leader in 2011. The fact that she came second to Emmanuel Macron is indisputably a blow to the party that boasted of being the strongest political force in the country. A clear defeat in the second round and confirmation that she can't win further seats in the parliamentary elections could then revive certain tensions over the party's strategy, in a nutshell the confrontation between the conservative line focused on questions of national identity spearheaded by [Marine Le Pen's niece] Marion Maréchal-Le Pen and the social-sovereigntist line championed by [FN vice-president] Florian Philippot.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Great news for the EU

Thanks to Macron the EU can still be saved, La Repubblica comments in delight:

“For all those who see Europe as an obstacle to their ambitions for power, a victory for Marine Le Pen would be a blessing while the triumph of Emmanuel Macron would without doubt be a dreadful setback. Since Mitterrand's death France has been governed by presidents who were lukewarm about the idea of European integration, like Chirac, or too weak to give that integration the decisive push, like Hollande. A victory for Macron is likely to considerably accelerate the project of a two-speed Europe so far only outlined by Merkel. An economically, politically and also militarily more integrated, robust Europe could produce a marked shift in the global balance of power, to the detriment of those who dream of a weak or non-existent EU.”

Delo (SI) /

Back to the future

The first round of the French election has left Delo with a sense of déjà-vu:

“History doesn't always repeat itself, but in a way the French are back in the year 2002 after yesterday's first round of the presidential election, when Jacques Chirac and the nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the second round but the latter then lost right down the line. This time, too, the French seem to have 'come back to the future' half way towards electing their new president, and we can only hope things remain that way - and that voters don't fall for Le Pen. Because if the humanist European spirit escapes from the French bottle it will be gone everywhere. Macron believes in it, and in the European project. His potential victory in the runoff on May 7 won't be the end of it.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Danger not banished yet

It is by no means certain that Marine Le Pen will lose in the second round, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung points out:

“The ultranationalist Marine Le Pen is now on the doorstep of the Elysée Palace. She's a woman with a clear profile. Even if she says she's neither left nor right, her basic stance is on the far right of the political spectrum: the strong state gives the orders, it's the people's job to obey. There's little room for freedom or personal responsibility. ... The polls are predicting a clear defeat for Le Pen in the second round of these presidential elections on May 7. But the 'Front républicain' against the far right can no longer be relied on and a victory for Le Pen is now possible - if enough conservatives defect to her camp and a sufficient number of disappointed leftists abstain from voting. To beat Le Pen in a convincing way, Macron will have to sharpen his profile. It's not enough just to look nice.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Macron's next steps far more difficult

Emmanuel Macron winning the race for the presidency is by no means a sure thing also as far as Lidové noviny is concerned:

“He must consolidate his position in the second round, but even then he won't have won yet because in the summer the French will elect a new parliament. Experience shows that the voters won't necessarily support Macron. His new movement En Marche! is still in its infancy. … The French are counting on the possibility of a cohabitation, in other words a constellation with a president and prime minister with different political orientations. In an extreme case the position of a weak president who only has any real influence in the areas of diplomacy and defence awaits Macron. This would be bad news for Europe. Almost as bad as if Le Pen had won.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

France's last chance

A Macron presidency is not only very likely but also the last chance to stop the extremists, the Daily Telegraph comments:

“Though there will certainly be delight in Brussels and Berlin at the likely election of a Europhile, this is no time on their part - or on Macron's - for hubrisitic celebration. France remains bitterly divided. Almost half its voters backed candidates who loathe the European Union. And while the extremists look likely to be kept from power this time, politics as usual will only see a yet stronger turnout for them at the next election. A winning turnout, perhaps. Monsieur Macron therefore has a solemn task - a last chance to reform France and reverse the utter disillusion that many French people feel about their leaders.”

Observador (PT) /

Europe divides the French

France is a divided country after the first round of the election, Observador observes:

“By voting for Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon more than 40 percent of the French have voted against the EU and the euro. Almost as many as voted for Europe by opting for Emmanuel Macron, François Fillon and Benoît Hamon. France has thus shown itself to be just as divided as the United Kingdom last year in the Brexit referendum. But the big difference is the following: while in Britain the big parties are still calling the shots, in France for the first time the two parties that have shaped the history of the French Republic didn't make it to the runoff vote. … The problem, however, is not just the marginalisation of the Gaullists and the Socialists. The biggest problem is that neither the pro-European Macron nor the anti-European Le Pen represent a real alternative.”