Tip Sheets

French election: First round out of the way, second round will be a yawner

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, two non-traditional candidates who campaigned on opposite electoral platforms, advanced to the second and final round of the French presidential race. Cornell experts offer their views on the election so far, and what we should expect come May 7.

Christopher Robert Way

Associate Professor

Christopher Way, professor of government and director of the Cornell Institute for European Studies, says that the most surprising thing about this election is how unsurprising the result was.

Way says:

“Given the twists and turns of the campaign, a last-minute terrorist attack, and the historic inaccuracy of French polls, it is a remarkable that the four top candidates ended up within a point of their polling averages. Now with the first round out of the way, the second round will be a yawner – it is hard to see any path to victory for Le Pen.

“Anybody arguing that Le Pen has a chance in the second round has to confront this fact: populist right parties do not beat their polls (more often the opposite), and the polls show Le Pen getting trounced in a second round match-up against Macron.”

Mabel Berezin

Professor of Sociology at Cornell University

Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology and author of several books about nationalism in Europe, says the first-round results bring the tension between globalism and nationalism to the forefront.

Berezin says:

“Macron is the quintessential cosmopolitan globalist. He is the candidate that the rest of Europe wants and is supported by the educated mobile young who pursue opportunities in a global arena.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, wants to tighten borders against terrorists and illegal immigrants, is fervently anti-European Union and preaches a form of ‘economic protectionism.’ She is the candidate of the rust belts of France as well as the rural areas. If Marine Le Pen were elected President of France, the EU would be seriously weakened as well as NATO.”

Anna Leander

Visiting Scholar

Anna Leander, visiting scholar at the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and professor of international political sociology at the Copenhagen Business School, says the results of this first round show that the slide towards nationalist populism, on the left and right in France, is less massive than many hoped or feared.

Leander says:

“Le Pen’s campaigners were disappointed. They got less than they hoped for and only five percent of the Parisian vote.

“The digital campaigning used by the populists did not pay off. Mélenchon’s use of holograms was just a curiosity, while the online game FiscalKombat developed by his campaign only caused irritation. It excluded Le Pen from the cast of oligarchs to be ‘shaken’ and portrayed banker-Macron’s nose as big and crooked.”

Stefano Guzzini

Visiting Scholar

Stefano Guzzini, professor of political science and visiting scholar at the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, says that except for Le Pen, the vote is a poor indicator of actual party strength.

Guzzini says:

“Many voters, left and right, cast their ballot not for their preferred candidate or party, but for the one most likely to beat Le Pen in the second round. The major risk is a weak or heterogeneous majority, moreover not supporting the president.

“It is most likely that whoever wins the presidential election is going to lose the parliamentary one. The president may well be the head of state, but without a presidential majority in Parliament, the prime minister is the actual head of government.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.