April 27, 2017 .
Emmanuel Macron (left) and Marine Le Pen (right), the two candidates in the second round of the French presidential election. Photo credit-Wikimedia Commons
On Sunday, April 23, France held the first round of its Presidential election. The French election system includes a first round where many candidates from several parties compete for the top two spots. In the second round, which will be held on May 7th, the two candidates which got the most votes in the first round go head to head and whichever candidate receives more votes becomes President of France.
The 2017 French election has seen both mainstream parties which have governed France since World War II pushed to the sidelines. Neither of the candidates who have made it to the second round are members of the Socialist party or the Republican party, the two parties which have led France since the 1950s.
The Candidates who Made it to the Second Round:
Marine Le Pen, National Front (Far-Right Populist)
Marine Le Pen is the candidate from the National Front, a party which in the past has been unpopular due to its sometimes racist and anti-semitic rhetoric. Marine Le Pen has tried to soften the party’s image by firing her father, Jean Marine Le Pen who often used anti-semitic language. Nevertheless, the National Front’s message is still fairly extreme. Le Pen calls for a complete shutdown on almost all immigration and has also expressed support for harshly anti-muslim policies. She has at times used anti-immigrant and anti-muslim rhetoric which has worried many people in France and around the world. Le Pen has also called for France’s withdrawal from the European Union and NATO. If France does end up leaving the EU, the European Union will probably disintegrate considering France’s important role in the union.
Emmanuel Macron, En-Marche (Centrist)
Emmanuel Macron has gained traction recently and won the most votes in the election on Sunday. Macron has fairly moderate policies and is, in general, pro-immigration and pro-European Union. However, on several issues, Macron has also expressed progressive, ambitious policies such as his plan to wean France off of fossil fuels and promote environmental conservation among other positions. These policies as well has his charismatic oratory often attract young voters. Macron also favors a reform of France’s government provided healthcare system which will cut costs while also keeping coverage for all citizens. He plans to do this by focussing more on preventative care. Macron also supports giving public schools and universities more autonomy. Emmanuel Macron is young (39) and considered a powerful orator by many. He also speaks fluent english. Interestingly though, Macron married his former high school teacher who is 24 years older than him. At only 39, he already has 7 step grandchildren.
Emmanuel Macron has been considered the frontrunner in the election so far (he got the most votes in the first round). Macron currently leads Le Pen in the latest opinion polling, however recently polls have been narrowing. Macron still leads Le Pen by about 20%. If Emmanuel Macron is able to hold his lead with young voters and win the election, it will be a blow to right-wing populists in other European elections including the elections in Germany and Italy. If Marine Le Pen wins, that will likely spell the demise of the European Union and French multiculturalism and be a strong boost for other right-wing populists around the world, especially in Germany and Italy.
Most recent French 2nd round polls.
Photo credit: Telegraph.co.uk
Over the past few years, there have been two major political phenomena, a center-left populist movement which emphasizes progress and forward movement, and a right-wing, nativist, anti-immigration, “tough” movement that strives for returning a country to a better time. The left-wing, “forward” movement is seen in the US in Obama’s presidency and in Canada with the victory of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In France, Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy is a manifestation of this center-left, progress minded ideology. This is easy to spot through the name of his independent party, “En Marche” which translates to “Forward”. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen embodies an entirely different political ideology. Her ideology reflects a recent trend toward far-right, nativist politics which support the idea of returning France to better time with less immigrants. This trend can also be seen in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US. Ultimately, the French election will decide which of these ideologies will prevail and spread.