French Elections: A Test for the EU
On April 23, France will hold the first round of their presidential election. The current leader from the Socialist Party, President Hollande, has chosen not to run due to low popularity averaging around 20%. This is the first French president not to run for reelection in modern times, and a power vacuum has led to no clear front runner. Main candidates include the moderate-liberal Emmanuel Macron, the right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen, and the conservative Francios Fillion.
The French electoral system is different from a simple popular vote—there are two rounds of voting, where presidential-hopefuls will be filtered out to two candidates. Such a process favors more radical groups in the first stage, but works against them in the second as coalition groups often form to appose hard-liners.
So far, Marine le Pen is poised to win the first round with around 28%, but Macron is close behind with 25%. Because these two candidates would be the only to make it to the second round, the votes of the less popular candidates would be split between them—polls suggest Macron would end up with 62% to Le Pen’s 38%.
Fillion’s bid was looking as probable up until the last few weeks, when a payment scandal emerged revealing that his wife had a government salary for doing no work. While the Republican Party did not abandon him completely, his popularity sunk, and his many notable figures inside his campaign resigned. Such shows the unpredictability in presidential races—a similar scandal could severely hurt Macron. Le Pen is already under investigation for mismanagement of EU funds, but her base has remained loyal to her.
Le Pen seems to be trying to ride a wave of nationalist sentiment that elected Donald Trump and voted for Brexit. Her policies are anti-Islamic and xenophobic, but are also in the wake of many major terrorist attacks on French soil. This is not her first time running either—her Popular Front has been running in every election as a fringe group, only recently gaining a chance at the French Presidency. Despite this success, Le Pen would struggle to create a Parliamentary majority, and would likely be in the center of a deadlock in politics.
Macron is winning in the polls, but such predictions have failed en mass in the last world elections. Some French voters believe that his moderate tone resonations too much with the previous president and President Hollande’s failed promises. The French recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has been slow and unemployment remains high at 9%. France’s final results on May 7th will prove to be a crucial testing ground in the EU from center-left leaders. Germany’s Angela Merkel is up for reelection soon as well and faces similar opposition from nationalist parties. France’s upcoming election will give hints on whether or not nationalism is indeed tearing Europe apart.
“France Presidential Election 2017.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.
Featured Photo by Kamil Zihnioglu