There is likely to be higher turn out in the first round, if only because there has been so much build up with real debates between the many different candidates. Macron and Melenchon are most likely to attract undecided voters. Le Pen voters have been committed for quite a while, even if her rhetoric has ramped up in recent days, and may enable her to pick up disenchanted Fillon (center right) voters.
Anything is possible in this race. The question is, if Melenchon is the second man, is Le Pen the first woman? That is what most analysts suggest, and established politicians fear, because they think that will mean that Le Pen is elected. ‘Strategic’ thinking among voters may mean that they pull back from Melenchon in the end, and vote Macron. If the contest is Macron/Le Pen, Macron wins. If, however, Fillon comes from behind, to make it a Fillon/Le Pen race, then the abstention on the left could mean a Le Pen victory.
My thoughts on how the challenges facing the EU from populism, and how progressives can fight back, in particular by rethinking how to do with governance of the Euro and how to re-envision the EU:
In recent years, the European Union has suffered through a cascading set of crises, including the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis, the security crisis, and Brexit. But rather than bringing the EU together, with concerted responses that would demonstrate its common values on its 60th anniversary, these crises have revealed cross cutting divisions among member states. What’s more, they have been accompanied by major crises of politics and democracy for the EU as well as its member states.
At EU level, questions are increasingly raised not only about the (lack of) effectiveness in solving the various crises but also democratic legitimacy. The causes are EU governance processes characterized by the predominance of closed-door political bargains by leaders in the Council and by a preponderance of technocratic decisions by EU officials in the Commission and the European Central Bank, without significant oversight by the European Parliament. At national level, concerns focus on the ways in which the EU’s very existence has diminished elected governments’ authority and control over growing numbers of policies for which they had traditionally been alone responsible, often making it difficult for them to fulfill their electoral promises or respond to their voters’ concerns and expectations.
On Friday, March 31, I was quoted in another Washington Post article on the upcoming French elections. Making the case that the anti-European sentiment in France closely mirrors that of the Brexit and Donald Trump phenomena in Britain and the United States, I pointed out that it's the same discourse of globalization gone too far, of outrage over high unemployment — and especially youth unemployment. As the authors of the article point out, “the general unemployment rate in France has hovered around 10 percent for years, and the youth unemployment rate is about 26 percent.” But the phenomenon is also sociocultural. People really feel a loss of control, political and otherwise. Le Pen gives people a nostalgia for a vanished past, a past most people don’t even remember.