Macron panic: Allies fear Marine Le Pen could spring historic French election win

Macron may 'struggle' with left-leaning voters says expert

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They had hoped the eurosceptic National Rally leader would get caught up in a damaging scandal that harms her support with voters. But recent polls show Ms Le Pen is set to be a serious competitor to Mr Macron in next April’s presidential election. Newfound support for the far-right leader comes as she attempts to move away from airing controversial views that scare off more liberal voters.

In the last election race in 2017, Mr Macron defeated Ms Le Pen by exposing her weakness for detail and putting an emphasis on her policy to quit the euro single currency bloc – one that is largely opposed by voters.

Political scientist Ugo Palheta said the eurosceptic candidate has managed to gain support amongst women, young people, and even Jewish and gay voters by softening her image.

It’s this strategy that has struck fear into Mr Macron’s closest confidants, with his Europe minister Clement Beaune stressing the possibility of a victory for Ms Le Pen is now real.

Mr Beaune said the fight between his boss and the National Rally leader reflects “the great ideological debate of our time”.

A victory for Ms Le Pen would come as a shock on par with Donald Trump’s election victory or the Brexit vote in 2016.

But now people see the possibility of such seismic electoral outcomes as a result of the results in the US and UK.

Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Teneo in London, said: “Le Pen’s normalisation does not mean she is unlikely to wreak havoc if elected.”

Christophe Bouillaud, a political scientist at Grenoble, said in a “darkest scenario” her win could be followed by unrest, with immigrants and Muslims likely targeted.

But Ms Le Pen has worked hard to shed this association with far-right policies, such as implementing a zero-tolerance policy for any party members making racist moments on social media.

And during a recent television debate, she spoke about climate change, feminism and said she no longer wants to quit the EU, just reform it.

“The National Rally vote has spread to all the strata of society,” said Frédéric Dabi, deputy director general for polling agency Ifop.

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“Marine Le Pen has become the number one candidate for employees, and her ratings among the elderly, managers and graduates, where the RN is not usually strong, are not negligible.”

Some polls have now put Ms Le Pen within touching distance of Mr Macron in the second vote, while the vast majority forecast her falling short once again.

In one recent study, Ms Le Pen’s potential success was trialled against different centre-right candidates running in the presidential election.

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The Ipsos poll for Le Monde had the eurosceptic leader winning the first round with 26 percent of the vote against Mr Macron and regional leader Xavier Bertrand.

She was tied on 27 percent with the current French President when another regional leader, Valerie Pecresse, was candidate for the centre-right Les Republicains.

And she lost 29-28 percent to Mr Macron in a third with Bruno Retailleau running as a right-wing candidate.

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