Graphic shows the progression of municipalities in which the Front National came first, culminating in the 2017 Presidential Election (FranceTV Info/ NICOLAS ENAULT / CARTO).
Despite not reaching the watershed 30% that many supporters had hoped for on Sunday, Marine Le Pen has made considerable inroads across France, coming first in 18,845 municipalities versus rival Emmanuel Macron, himself placing first in only 7,222. The country as a whole has some 35,000 municipalities, making Le Pen, geographically at least, by far the winning candidate of Sunday’s first round of voting.
In what could be the real story of the campaign, the successful spread and implantation of the Front National beyond its historic heartlands, the vote could portend significant gains in June’s legislative elections and a long-awaited break-through into the National Assembly where France’s electoral system makes it near impossible for the party to elect parliamentary deputies.
Sunday night brought jubilation to French patriots, yet there was some disappointment given that their candidate had for months before election day been polling higher than her actual score of 21.3% . The more respectable the score achieved in the first round, the greater the momentum for winning in the second – so the conventional wisdom goes, and many supporters were hoping for a stronger result given the dramatic circumstances the country finds itself in.
Marine Le Pen attained one of her highest scores, 46.5% in the northern Pas-de-Calais town of Hénin-Beaumont, a formerly left-voting mining town dear to the candidate and the place she chose to spend election day – the only major candidate not to observe the results in Paris. Eleven candidates were on the ballot in Sunday’s election.
Le Pen achieved a score of above 30% in 84 constituencies, mainly in the Front National strongholds of the north and the Mediterranean south-east, and dominating in rural and smaller communities where politicians, let alone presidential candidates, rarely set foot.
Revealing a national divide, former finance minister and globalist rival, Emmanuel Macron, dominated in many of the larger towns and cities.
In left-leaning Paris, Le Pen attained only 5% of the vote. In Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse, she struggled to reach 10% .
The south-eastern cities of Nice and Marseille brought better fortunes, with 25.3% and 23.7% of votes cast respectively for the nationalist candidate.
Likewise, for Calais and Dunkirk, two northern coastal towns on the front line of the migrant influx, where she scored 37.2% and 29.8% respectively.
Le Pen has hit the ground running since Sunday night’s celebrations, upping her game significantly on television appearances and stepping down as leader of the Front National in order to run as an independent to maximize her appeal. The decision, similar to that taken in a previous era by French national hero Charles de Gaulle, has been seen by observers as politically astute.
Despite Macron’s 22-24 point lead in the first polls since Sunday, the establishment candidate has started his campaign on the defensive following comparisons of his election night celebration – in plush Montparnasse bistro, La Rotonde – to that of Nicolas Sarkozy’s extravagant celebrations on the night of his presidential win in 2007. Le Pen and her supporters are keen to show former Rothschild banker, Macron, as out of touch and detached from the struggles of ordinary people.
Perhaps for this reason, Macron holds his next rally in the northern working town of Arras this evening. Le Pen will speak in Nice on Thursday night. The two will go head to head in a televised debate on May 3rd, a possible game changer for Le Pen in an otherwise mathematically difficult – but not impossible – race.