So, it's no shock that Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have made it through to the second and final round of the French presidential election. This campaign has been perhaps the most sensational in recent history, but there is still a way to go until we know what will come out of it.
This is the very first time in the history of the fifth French Republic a current president has not ran for a second term (French presidents are only allowed two consecutive terms). Aditionally, France has faced several terrorist attacks since 2013 and is still under a state of emergency; this atmosphere of insecurity is influencing voters somewhat and is opening a path for populism and nationalism.
It should not be forgotten that the fate of the EU now rests on the results of this election. Marine Le Pen, a populist and a nationalist, wants to take France out of the Eurozone and, ultimately, the EU in pursuit of "a national sovereignty". Thus, this is a crucial vote not only for the future of Europe, but for the future of the globalized world.
After Brexit, some people in France are now tempted by a possible Frexit. What they yet do not seem to understand is that, although the UK is seeing some of the negative effects of Brexit, and they have not left the EU yet, the economy has not crumbled. Yet France wouldn’t do as well outside of the EU as the UK. Indeed, going back to a national currency, the Franc, would be economic suicide, and severe inflation would follow. Moreover, it has to be noted that France does not have the same international influence as the UK, and France could not stand alone outside of the EU.
What happened in the first round?
The outcome was a surprise for some, but this campaign has been like no other before it.
First we have an outsider, former banker and economics minister, Emmanuel Macron who describes himself has neither left or right and who finished the first round as the leading candidate (24%). He has never held elected office before and is criticized by some for his presence in the media, his former professional occupation, and his programme.
Then we have Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National. The fact that she came second in the first round of the elections shows the anger of French voters against the current political system and its failure to allow power to change hands (since the creation of the fifth French Republic by Charles de Gaulle, presidents were either left -PS- or right wing -LR) as well as the wave of populism that has been going over Europe for the past several years.
But their presence in the second round is not the only surprise.
Indeed, the sudden rise of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon who finished fourth on Sunday (19.6%) shows how voters have dramatically turned to the extremes and are rejecting the two major political parties. Despite completely changing his communication strategy since the 2012 elections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has not made it to the second round and has not endorsed either of the two leading candidates, calling his voters to choose on their own.
Then we have François Fillon, now famous overseas for the "Penelopegate" scandal. He is accused of having paid his wife and children with public money for little or no work. Though he once was the favourite to be facing Marine Le Pen in the second round after his election in the Républicains primaries, these scandals deeply compromised his chance of victory. He ended up third in the first round (20%). Since his defeat last Sunday, he has endorsed Emmanuel Macron to stand in the way of the Front National.
Finally, we can talk about Benoît Hamon, candidate of the Parti Socialiste. His score is historically low (6.4%) and appears to be a protest vote from the French voters; François Hollande’s term as president has been deemed as unsatisfactory by the voters. Indeed, the soon to be ex-president hit an ultimate low point of 4% of sympathy from the French electorate. This result raises the question of the PS's future and how they will recover from this, if ever.
So what now?
The second round of the election will take place on the 7th of May and results will be known in the evening. Though major candidates have called on their supporters to vote for Macron, many voters seem to be struggling to support either Macron or Le Pen and are saying they might abstain or spoil their ballot (blank votes are counted but not taken into account in the final results). If polls show Macron winning, it seems necessary to listen to these worried voters who might be important in the final vote and whose votes might be crucial for either Macron or Le Pen. And after what happened in the UK and the US, trusting polls has become more and more complicated.
However, it is necessary to state that the results of the presidential elections may not seal the fate of France. "Why not?" you'll say. Here's the answer: in June the legislative elections to elect the National Assembly will be held. Neither Macron nor Le Pen currently have a majority, and a president needs a majority to respect and apply their programme. So, you might have to hold your breath until June and follow the legislative campaign to find out how successful the next president can be.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS