With just a few hours until we find out the first results of a most extraordinary presidential election, we look plainly at what the possible outcomes could mean.
The polling so far suggests that this first round will effectively decide who becomes the next President given that all the candidates are so far apart in the head-to-head second round run-off.
These are the possible (in order of likelihood) second-round combinations from today’s election:
Macron and Le Pen – these two have been in the top-two consistently since the Fillon controversy hit the headlines in January. If the polls are right and these two go head-to-head in a couple of weeks time, as much as this would be a populist victory for Le Pen achieving the Front National’s second ever appearance in the run off after Marine’s father shocked the world, this result would allow the European Union to breathe a great sigh of relief; Macron would be red-hot favourite to become President. However, Le Pen’s achievements would still be significant and send another message to the so-called ‘establishment’ of world politics.
Macron and Fillon – if this result were to occur today, that ‘establishment’ would be overjoyed. Macron would win again but the absence of an extreme candidate would greatly jolt the momentum of populism built up last year. This would be a win for conventional politics and a win, if you can really call it that, for the European Union.
Le Pen and Fillon – this would be a surprise; no Macron in the second round Has been unthinkable for some time but, then again, it would be the same for Le Pen. Fillon would probably win, however this would be the best case scenario for Marine and the Front National who, with their relatively socially-liberal policies, could take enough of a portion from the left-wing vote to surmount a credible challenge. The Fillon scandal is also perfect for the anti-establishment, drain-the-swamp and Trump-like tone that the Front National have taken on. Fillon should win but expect a reasonably close result.
Macron and Melenchon – Mr Melenchon has been a revelation during this election; for at least a year now analysts have spoken almost entirely about the far-right nationalism of the Le Pens and the Trumps, however, the far-left has been relatively absent. Until now. Macron and centrism would be expected to win but given that Melenchon has only just emerged as a real player, there has been limited polling to indicate how he will do in a second round so he may well still be able to overcome the lead that Macron currently has over him from the new and recent polling. Moreover, there is the opportunity for him to collect the anti-establishment vote from a defeated Le Pen if that is the case. Of the four candidates, Melenchon looks the second-best in the head-to-head scenarios; behind Macron but in front of Fillon and Le Pen. His problem is that he is fourth in polling for the first-round so is least likely to make it to that all-important run-off. That said, all four candidates are within the margin of error so Melenchon can do it.
Le Pen and Melenchon – this would be a quite ground-breaking if not earth-shattering result. Forget Brexit, this would be, in the words of Trump last year (although not about this particular election), ‘Brexit+++’. The EU would be effectively finished. This would also have a significant impact on our own election in the UK, perhaps extending support for the Conservative Party and hurting the Liberal Democrats who, in their strongly pro-EU stance, would find it difficult to defend an organisation that, with this result, would be crumbling faster than Theresa May changes her stance on having a snap election. Even though we would not know who would win the Presidency from this first round, a result like this would be a significant and unmistakable mandate to leave the European Union and, in so doing, would result in 2016 word-of-the-year, Brexit, being succeeded in 2017 by Frexit. Deciding who would become President in two weeks time would almost feel irrelevant in comparison, however, if these two did get through, it would likely be Mr Melenchon.
So, in reality, if Macron passes this first round he will become the next President of France. However, if he does not, be prepared for an extremely unstable political climate not only in France but across the world.