A large proportion of French voters have yet to decide who they will back in the first round of the presidential election this Sunday (23 April). Experts see this as an indictment of the candidates’ persuasive powers. EURACTIV France reports.
With just four days to go before the election, voters are stressed, civil servants are worried about their jobs and party activists have given up on sleep. The latest polls point to an unusually tight contest, with four candidates in with a chance of reaching the second-round run-off.
Emmanuel Macron is leading with 23% forecast for the first round, followed closely by Marine Le Pen (22.5%), François Fillon (19.5%) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (19%), according to a poll published on Wednesday (19 April) by Ipsos Sopra-Steria, on behalf of Le Monde and Cevipof.
But the statistics too often brush aside voters’ uncertainties.
Serge, a civil servant in the ministry of justice, still has not decided who to vote for. Despite his 25 years of electoral experience, this long-time environmentalist feels lost.
“It is the first time this has happened to me. I really don’t know what to do, it’s distressing,” he said. The Europhile is disappointed with Benoît Hamon, finds Macron “empty and opportunistic” and Mélenchon too Eurosceptic.
Serge’s indecision is indicative of a new unease among the French electorate, particularly among traditional left-wing voters. A poll by Odoxa found that 43% of the Socialist Party’s support base is still undecided, against 29% of centre-right supporters.
Hamon’s campaign has clearly failed to captivate the traditional socialist voters, many of whom have defected to centrist pro-European Macron’s camp. Even President François Hollande, who has said he will come out in favour of one of the two remaining candidates in the second round, is visibly leaning towards his former economic advisor, rather than the official candidate of his own party.
Mélenchon, on the other hand, who left the Socialist Party in 2008 to found the more radical Left Front, has surged in recent polls, moving from 12% to 19% in the space of one month.
After a strong performance in the televised debate on 22 March, the candidate supported by the Communist Party has even managed to seduce many traditionally moderate voters.
The MEP who in 2016 accused the Poles of “eating our French bread” in the posted workers argument, and who did not hesitate to brand the European Parliament (which pays his salary) as a “sham parliament”, has noticeably watered down his rhetoric. And it looks like this has paid off.
For Cevipof’s Director-General Madani Cherufa, this widespread indecision is a sure sign of the candidates’ inability to persuade voters. The researcher explained in an editorial published by Le Monde that the best-informed voters are likely to be the most indecisive and that many also made up their minds at the last minute in the 2012 election.