In the coming two weeks of the French campaign, Marine Le Pen’s challenge is to break through a wall of voter antipathy that she inherited from her father. Emmanuel Macron’s task is to persuade the French he has the gravitas and experience to be president.
The far-right Le Pen and centrist Macron both took just under a quarter of the vote in a contest with 11 candidates. Now they must convince the rest of the population that they have what it takes to lead the country after the May 7 runoff.
The next round will see two radically different visions. Macron embraces globalization and European integration, Le Pen channels the forces of discontent that triggered Brexit and brought Donald Trump to power. The runoff will also be unique in that it will be the first contested by neither of the major parties, giving Macron, 39, and Le Pen, 48, space to try to forge alliances that might have seemed unlikely until recently.
“Marine Le Pen’s toughest job is to break the traditional glass ceiling which her father Jean-Marie also suffered from,” said Yves-Marie Cann, a pollster at Elabe. “Even if her image is better than his was, the truth remains that most voters say they don’t share her ideas and have a bad opinion of the Front.”