French election candidates: Meet the 4 frontrunners

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The first round of the French presidential election is due to kick off on April 10, and 12 candidates are currently vying for the place. As polls fluctuate and opponents edge closer in the running to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron, looks into who’s favoured to win.

With just days to go, competition is ramping up between the candidates and the forecasted poll figures remain slightly too close for comfort for Mr Macron.

Last month, Mr Macron announced his intentions to run for a second term of presidency while far-right Marine Le Pen, his second-round opponent from 2017, had already launched her campaign.

While Mr Macron was engaging in talks around the Ukraine crisis, Ms Le Pen was knee-deep into her campaign homing in on areas in La France Profonde (deep France).

Consequently, Ms Le Pen has boosted her position in the polls, as a new survey by Harris Interactive shows the French lawyer and far-right politician could fall just three percent short of Mr Macron, who is favoured to win.

The hard left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon is currently polling third, and the far right’s Eric Zemmour placing just after.

In order to run, candidates had to secure 500 endorsements from the 42,000 elected French officials.

The first round will be held on April 10. However, if no candidates win a majority vote, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates on April 24.

So who are these frontrunners and what are they polling?

Emmanuel Macron – 26.5 percent

First elected in 2017, incumbent President Emmanuel Macron shook up France’s political scene when he ran without a majority party.

Winning the last election by 66.06 percent to 33.94 percent, Mr Macron became the country’s youngest president at age 39.

He has since been favoured to win a second term. However, he could be due to face a repeat of the 2017 election as previous close opponent Ms Le Pen presents herself as his biggest contender this year.

Mr Macron’s weakening performance this year has been blamed by many on his divided focus on defusing the Ukraine crisis and refusing to debate other candidates on political talk shows.

Mr Macron previously held the position of economy minister under the Socialist president François Hollande, and is seen by voters as leaning more towards the centre-right in office.

Marine Le Pen – 23 percent

Marine Le Pen, is a French lawyer and far-right politician who served as president of the National Rally, France’s far-right political party, from 2011 to 2021.

She is said to have been working on somewhat of a public relations drive over the years to rebrand the party and sanitise the image of the anti-immigration far-right National Front.

This election will be Ms Le Pen’s third time running, and many consider a defeat would put an end to the 53-year-old’s political career.

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon – 17 percent

Former Trotskyist and far-left leader of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Mr Melenchon is polling the strongest among the competing left-wing candidates at 17 percent.

His manifesto advocates for a 32-hour work week and for the pension age to return to 60.

His campaign has gained momentum over the months and some have questioned his chances of making it to the second-round runoff.

Éric Zemmour – 9.5 percent

Former TV pundit Zemmour’s campaign was initially off to a good start as his anti-Islam and anti-immigration views were drawing in voters who would have usually opted for Ms Le Pen’s far-right party.

However, he’s since seen a drop in support down to 9.5 percent due to his “uncompromising style” and having a “weak point on economics”. [link]

Jim Shields, a professor of French politics at Warwick University told France24: “What seemed an advantage for Zemmour at first – his anti-system, anti-political appeal – has not stood up so well to the bigger question of whether he has the makings of a president.”

“His reduced momentum is due to his lack of credibility as a presidential candidate.

“The problem with momentum is that once lost, it is difficult to recover; so it’s hard to see how Zemmour can regain the strong upward momentum that once had him ahead of Le Pen in some polls.”

The election is predicted to see two rounds, held 14 days apart.

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