Five years after Emmanuel Macron won the presidency on his first attempt, his nearest rivals all faced an uphill battle to beat him. Polls widely showed Macron as the frontrunner, with the war in Ukraine turning the attention to foreign policy rather than the domestic issues favoured by his opponents.
Macron is widely credited with his efforts mediating with President Putin and pushing for a diplomatic solution to the war, though with no result so far. In January, in an address to the European Parliament, he called for reforming the European security framework. For years France has been pushing for more ‘European strategic autonomy’ in the field of defence and for more ‘strategic sovereignty’ for the EU.
However while President Macron was occupied with the conflict in Ukraine, the presidential campaign was mostly marked by a shift to the right and far-right, as well as the fragmentation of the left. Valérie Pécresse, from the centre-right Républicains, veered to the right of the party in order to appeal to its more hardline supporters. In addition to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, a second far-right candidate ran: Éric Zemmour, convicted multiple times of hate speech against Muslims and racial minorities.
Meanwhile, the left remained bitterly divided between the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Greens, and a Socialist Party polling below three per cent. Those shifts are likely to reshape the country’s political landscape in a lasting way and impact the overall state of French democracy.
At this event, a panel of experts discuss:
- Has the Ukraine crisis influenced the way the French electorate voted?
- Does this election mark a long-term shift to the right in French politics?
- Given the risk of record-low turnout, what is the state of French democracy?
- Looking towards the legislative elections, will the new president get a majority in parliament?
- How will the new president approach relations with the UK?
This event is part of Chatham House’s ongoing work on democracy that delivers.