Has the Front National benefited electorally from Brexit? It is, of course, too early to say for certain. If Britain thrives outside the European Union, then it might make a vote for the Front National seem less like a leap into the unknown.
During the Brexit referendum, the UK was often called the “canary in the coal mine” (including by Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party). That’s potentially quite a scary place to be for the canary, but eurosceptics in other countries will be watching what happens carefully.
The recent terror attack in Nice, in which a Tunisian man drove a truck into a crowd and killed 84 people, could also sway some French voters. Europe, security, and immigration are all issues that the Front National puts front-and-centre in its campaign strategy.
We had a comment from Byron, who anyway thought the Front National will “take more than 25% of the vote in the first round of the next presidential election”. Is he right? In fact, the latest polling puts Le Pen at about 28-29% of the vote. So, could Marine Le Pen be President in 2017?
To get a response, we spoke to Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris, Research Director of European Affairs at Institut Viavoice, a French strategy and poll studies consultancy. What would he say to Byron?
Well, to Byron, I would say that this would be extremely scary. But an FN victory definitely has to be considered at least a small possibility, because Marine Le Pen definitely has electoral strength in France. When you put together all the different possibilities in the first round of the 2017 French Presidential Election, the polling suggests Marine Le Pen would receive the most votes of all candidates, unless if Alain Marie Juppé is a candidate in the first round.
So, I think that democrats and centrists and people who believe Le Pen is a danger to democracy should mobilise, knowing the danger is clear, at least in this moment. One important thing is to remind people that our polls and surveys are just a photograph of reality at a precise moment, it’s not necessarily what will happen, nor what people think. It’s another tool, among many, to see how public opinion moves or shifts according to different tendencies. But the tendency is an alarming one, and it should send a red signal not only for France, but for all of Europe.
We also had a comment from Klassen, who believes that high unemployment, coupled with efforts to push through controversial labour reforms, are making President Hollande increasingly unelectable. So, is there any chance of him reversing his fortunes ahead of the election?
Well, to Klassen, I would say: Yes, it’s very, very, very uncommon to see a French president with a 14% approval rating, and this is what Hollande has been enduring for many months. And it’s quite difficult to win an election when your presidency has hovered between 14% and 20% approval for so long.
At the same time, Hollande was clear from the beginning that one of the basic ways of judging his mandate will be how the economy is performing after his five years in office. And the economy, for the last 3-5 months, has been doing a little better. The question now is: will the economy improve and unemployment fall in a regular way over the next year?
If that happens, I would say Hollande maybe has one last chance. If that doesn’t happen then it’s difficult to imagine, for a pollster like me, someone whose ratings have been in the red for so long becoming president. But, again, we have seen ‘impossible’ things happen before. Polls should be taken with a grain of salt, and a lot of things can change over the next 15 months. The employment rate and the economy in general have been improving slightly. So, we will have to wait and see.
Will Brexit boost Marine Le Pen’s Front National? Or is it too early to say? If Britain thrives outside the European Union, will more countries flock to join it? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!