We’re in the final countdown to the French Presidential Election and the country is abuzz with, well, a lot of uncertainty. If this chart by FiveThirtyEight is difficult to follow, that’s because this election has been difficult–if not impossible–to follow. French Analysts and citizens alike cannot seem to come to a consensus on the trajectory of this election, even within the final 24 hours leading up to the primary vote.
If you’re just tuning in, France is headed into one of the most pivotal elections of recent history. Following ‘Brexit’ and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, it’s now France’s turn to take a stance on the direction of Western democracies. Tomorrow, French citizens cast their votes to decide which two candidates will face off in the final election on May 7th.
Even from the beginning when politicians began to announce their candidacies, nothing about this election has been conventional or predictable. Several weeks in and there remains little clarity on how the election will play out. Not one candidate has managed to maintain a lead in the polls and predictions are all over the map.
Initially it appeared that right-wing candidate and former Prime Minister François Fillon was the most likely challenger to Front National leader Marine Le Pen. However, since being put under investigation last month for allegedly misallocating government funds to his wife and children, Fillon quickly lost popularity and left room for an underdog to climb up in the polls. That underdog turned out to be Emmanuel Macron, a left-wing turned centrist candidate who has campaigned under the slogan “En Marche,” which means “Onward” or “Forward.” Finally, there’s Jean-Luc Mélanchon. Despite his popular stance on strong national security, the Communist-backed candidate has dipped to single digits in the polls.
While the frontrunners are clear, there race is far too close to call. Even Le Pen, arguably the most talked about candidate in the race, has lost her narrow lead in opinion polls from time to time over the last few weeks. Conversations around the country reflect a similar uncertainty. Some contend that her victory is downright impossible while others are certain that she will win.
The recent shooting in Paris adds yet another surprise twist to the elections. Last Thursday, a gunman, allegedly acting under the Islamic State, opened fire on police officers at the Champ-Élysées, killing one and injuring three others. This event could bolster support for front-runner Marine Le Pen, who runs on a platform of anti-immigration and closed borders. She and other candidates were quick to issues remarks about the shooting as an opportunity to show their strength on national security. Some even cancelled campaign events within the last 36-hours before the elections.
Ready or not, tomorrow French citizens will head to 67,000 voting stations around the country for the first round of voting. No matter which way it goes, it is sure to be an electrified race. While there is no way to predict the outcome, one thing is certain: all eyes are on Marine Le Pen.