The presidential election in France begins; Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen advance
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After the first round of its presidential ballot, France comes one step closer to its final runoff election for the presidency on May 7. The European nation voted Sunday and significantly narrowed the competitive field. The two remaining candidates are the centrist Emmanuel Macron (taking 23.9% of the vote) and the populist candidate Marine Le Pen (with 21.4% of the vote).
The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the most prominent differences between Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen is their views on France’s relationship to the European Union. Macron is a former investment banker who wants a closer relationship to the EU, while Le Pen would like to withdraw from the EU and its euro currency.
Le Pen said, “The major issue of this election is runaway globalization, which is putting our civilization in danger.”
Macron disparaged Le Pen’s cause, saying, “I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of all the nationalists.”
By edging out Le Pen, Macron reassured investors that EU membership would likely be preserved, so the euro went up 1.8%. The various candidates defeated on Sunday’s election have pledged their support to Macron, calling Le Pen a member of the“extreme right” and “an enemy of the republic.”
Opinion polls on a Macron-Le Pen head-to-head election project a victory of over 20 percentage points in Macron’s favor. Still, the results are an upset as Macron has no conventional party backing. The Socialist Party’s candidate and the moderate conservative candidates who typically end up in the presidential palace are no longer an option.
If Le Pen wins the final election, it would constitute “the third blow within a year to the integrated, liberal-internationalist order of the Western world, following [Brexit] and the election of Donald Trump,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Even if Le Pen is defeated, though, political scientists have projected that anti-establishment, populist candidates will likely continue to challenge the status quo in an expression of dissatisfaction with the established parties.
The New York Times noted that Macron and Le Pen are both political outsiders, but they have extremely disparate platforms. Macron’s is based on a hodgepodge of liberal and conservative policies and a call to restructure economic regulations. Le Pen, on the other hand, has espoused immigration restriction, protection of French businesses, and restriction on the public display of Muslims wearing hijabs.
While Macron will go on to the final round, his rise to oppose Le Pen is rather unexpected. His political career is brief; he “served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande [of the Socialist party]” and then started his own party. Despite his brief tenure in the political realm, which did not include any elected position, he received support from the defeated Francois Fillon, who sees “no other choice.” The BBC reports that Germany and the EU support a Macron presidency.
The mood in France has been tense as of late; about 60,000 police and soldiers are patrolling the country’s polling places in the wake of a shooting on the Champs Elysées.
Le Pen’s dire post-election message, then, that “the survival of French civilization” depends on the May 7 vote resonates with many people. On the other hand, riots broke against Le Pen’s close success in Paris. Donald Trump’s tweet: “very interesting election currently taking place in France” is, as The Independent puts it, “the understatement of the day.”