Could Marine Le Pen be the French Donald Trump?

“However, if the past year has proven anything, it’s that the so-called experts often get it wrong and have been underestimating the populist movements.”

 

President Trump demonstrated a knack for understanding the “populist” undercurrent that is currently reshaping the political sphere. He was one of the few major public figures to acknowledge the possibility of the British people voting for a Brexit. He was also predicting his own victory even as many pundits were writing him off. Now, National Front candidate Marine Le Pen is in a position to pull off an even bigger upset by winning the French presidential election. If she is able to secure the presidency, it could alter the course of European history.

If Marine Le Pen were to win the French election, it could set France on a course to leave the European Union. The first round of the French presidential election is this Sunday, and Le Pen appears to be in a solid position to pull off a once inconceivable victory—making it to the run-off. France has long been known for its more liberal views, but the French people may elect a hard-lined, far right nationalist leader.

Interestingly, support for Le Pen is strong among France’s youth. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, the populist wave was able to overcome resistance from younger millennials, who voted overwhelmingly against Trump and Brexit. In France, on the other hand, youth voters might be the National Front’s path to victory.

In France, youth unemployment is still estimated to be around 25%. This has led to widespread discontent among younger voters. As a result, Le Pen’s strong anti-European Union, closed border policies are buying her a lot of support with millennial voters. Polls currently show Le Pen locking up as much as 40% of the 18 to 24 vote—double her closest competitor, the youthful Emmanuel Macron.

Not only do a sizable number of youth voters support Le Pen, but young French people who don’t support her often fail to make their presence felt at the ballot, instead choosing to sit out elections altogether.

Polls currently have Le Pen in second place behind Macron. She has slipped in recent days, however, with moderate Francois Fillion and far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon both having closed the gap. Polls show all four candidates clustered closely together and within 4% of one another. Interestingly, 40% of French voters remain undecided, making late swings more than possible.

If Le Pen does make it to the run-off, which seems likely, she will face a steeper uphill battle, as experts and pollsters believe most of the people who didn’t vote for her in the first round will consolidate around her opponent. However, if the past year has proven anything, it’s that the so-called experts often get it wrong and have been underestimating the populist movements.

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