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Presidency run off Le Pen/Macron. Guillaume Goubert (La Croix): “Yesterday an angered France went to the polls”

"In the course of the last elections the number of angry French people has been surging. Macron must absolutely find the answer to this form of malaise.” Interview with Guillaume Goubert, editor-in-chief of the Catholic daily "La Croix", on the aftermath of the first round of elections, leading to the presidential run-off between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. An analysis of practising Catholics’ voting trends.

Guillaume Goubert

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. The two candidates qualified for the final run-off to the Elysee Palace. The centrist candidate made it in the first round of votes with 23.75%, while the leader of the Front National gained 21,53% (achieving the best result ever for her political Party). According to a survey conducted by French Catholic daily “La Croix”, 44% of practising Catholics voted for the Républicains candidate François Fillon, while 16% of practising Catholics chose Macron and Le Pen. SIR contacted Guillaume Goubert, editor-in-chief of the daily “La Croix”, asking him to comment on these preliminary results.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen: a predictable presidential run-off. Or have some aspects taken you by surprise?
To begin, I wish to point out that the first round brought to the fore two pieces of good news. The first is the high turnout at the polls, with a remarkable presence at the ballot boxes. The second piece of good news is that the moderate, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, secured a lead over the candidate of the Front National Marine Le Pen. These are two positive events, which however are coupled by worrying news, such as the fact that 40% of the French electorate are angry. The voters of Marin Le Pen and of Emmanuel Melanchon testify to a situation of suffering experienced by a large part of the French population, both in terms of their living conditions and of the Country as a whole. The overall population is pervaded by a feeling of restlessness, especially regarding the future of their children. Thus it’s very important that a moderate candidate like Macron finds a solution that will answer this malaise. We cannot fail to acknowledge such a widespread feeling of uncertainty. There is always the risk, namely the relief, that the worst has been avoided. We saw it in the elections held in The Netherlands and in Austria. The problem is that the number of “angry” French people has been surging from one election to the next. Macron must absolutely find the answer to this malaise, especially to that of his voters, of the populations of rural areas, of industrial urban centres, even that of his fellow citizens of Amiens who are facing the relocation of a local industry to Poland.

Who did Catholics vote for?
A high percentage voted for Fillon. We conducted a survey that will be published in tomorrow’s issue which shows that 44% of practising Catholics (those attending Mass at least once a week) have voted for Fillon, 16% for Le Pen, and more or less the same percentage for Macron.

This survey shows that the penetration of the Front National amidst practising Catholics is below the national average.

Surveys dating back to a few months ago showed that practising Catholics voted for the Front National in the same numbers as the rest of the French population. Instead, our survey shows that the proportion is 3% less than the national average.

What were French Catholics afraid of, and why did they vote for Fillon?

They voted Fillon because by tradition French Catholics are rather conservative.

They voted for Sarkozy at the latest presidential election. Hence being more to the Right than the French population as a whole is a rather old tradition. But in this election the post-Manif pour tous factor played a rather important role, and Fillon’s positions on issues related to marriage, assisted procreation, surrogate motherhood, resonate rather strongly among the Catholic electorate of the Manif. Le Pen made controversial declarations on abortion, which unquestionably distanced the Catholic voters. Furthermore, a Catholic believer would find it hard to support her stances on immigrants and on their reception.

In you opinion why did the Secretary General of the French Bishops’ Conference issue a statement immediately after the first round of votes? How do you interpret his position?

It’s a clear stand. At a close reading it is hard to imagine that Catholics will vote for Le Pen at the final run-off.

Although it is not expressed in clear terms, it is inferred. I don’t know whether this is the bishops’ last word. We shall see. But I think that Monsignor Olivier Ribadeau Dumas has issued a statement to avoid pressures on this issue.

As things stand, what are the possible scenarios?
In my opinion, unless there is a sudden turn of events or a dramatic event such as a terror attack, Macron has high chances of winning. But it should be remembered that in 2002 Chirac won with 80% of the votes. I am quite sure that Macron will not gain the same number of votes. According to the latest polls he could take 60% of the vote. The overall situation is not that good, but he has high chances of becoming the winner. Moreover, I envisage a high rate of abstentions among Catholic voters.

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