French election: Experts predict bad weather will narrow margin between Macron and Le Pen

Turnout will be crucial as voters take to polls on Sunday in historic vote

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Friday 05 May 2017 19:01

Wet weather could put a dampener on France’s elections this weekend as voters take to the polls to elect their next president.

Heavy rain and high winds will sweep across the country on Saturday, and persistent wet weather will linger to the East of France into Sunday.

Météo France Forecaster Patrick Gallois told The Independent the worst weather will be concentrated from the Alsace region, into Lorraine and Franche-Comté and down to areas surrounding Lyon and the Savoie.

Poor weather has been known to affect voter turnout, which could be good news for Front National candidate Marine Le Pen as she hopes to mobilise disaffected voters.

On the last day of campaigning she is polling at 38 per cent, with independent centrist Emmanuel Macron looking on track to swoop to victory with 62 per cent.

Politics lecturer Dr Elodie Fabre from Queen’s University Belfast told The Independent weather can impact voter turnout, although Mr Macron’s 24-point lead is not to be underestimated.

“International comparisons show weather can have a marginal effect on turnout but it would have to be torrential weather of biblical proportions,” she said.

“Whether Macron manages to mobilise more voters on the left to increase his margin will be the most important thing. It would take an extremely low level of turnout for him not to win.”

She warned that the rise of the Front National since Ms Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen led the party to the second round of elections in 2002 has become “normalised”, diminishing the amount of protest voters mobilised in reaction.

“Turnout is of course very important, it’s normally very high in France, but to a degree we haven't seen the same level of mobilisation against the Front National as we saw in 2002, in part because it was a massive surprise then,” she said.

“15 years later, Le Pen was expected to be in the second round, that presence is normalised and therefore you don't see that massive movement of protest."

The election is seen as the most important in France for decades with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and France's place in the world at stake.

Ms Le Pen would close borders and quit the euro currency, while Mr Macron wants closer European cooperation and an open economy.

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