This following month, the French people will have to choose who will be in charge of their country for the next 5 years. Considering the recent global trend of populism, the French presidential election is not to be ignored. Its outcome may have a great impact on how Europe and the rest of the world are likely to shift in the next years.
The French presidential elections are divided into two different rounds. In the first one, all candidates who gathered 500 mayors’ signatures, get the legal right to run for elections. The two candidates who get the most votes then compete in a second round (except if one candidate achieves the majority, so more than 50%, but this rarely ever happens). The second round is the most important. All candidates that are able to pass the first round have some solid support from decided electors. But the votes that are the most significant are still undecided.
‘Considering the recent global trend of populism, the French presidential election is not to be ignored.’
A poll released by IPSOS (a leading market research company in France) on the 22nd of February has stated that the far right wing’s leader, Marine le Pen would gather the most votes with a total of 26% during the first round. Followed by Emmanuel Macron and his political organisation ‘En Marche’ with 20% and Francois Fillon leader of the Republican gathering 19.5 %. This significant rise of the Le Pen’s far right party is not that surprising. The French population has been extremely disappointed by the current president François Hollande which has faced the lowest satisfaction rate ever seen in France, basically ruling out Benoit Hamon, the candidate of the socialist party. But more importantly, it has channelled the anger and frustration within the population who are sick of the traditional left and right party, and are willing to give a chance to different parties that have never been in power.
Being a French student, I greatly fear Marine Le Pen’s victory. Her protectionist perspective involves leaving the European Union and the creation of a new currency, discriminating against legal immigrants working in France through tax and health policies, and her idea of cultural assimilation. The latter suggests all foreigners must, with no exception, start seeing the French culture as its own. Of course, one that arrives in a new country has to make efforts to integrate but this effort must come from both sides. Denying cultural difference is dangerous and will only arouse anger within people that initially wanted to be part of France. Moreover, I fear the her presidency could divide France, as one may argue Trump has strongly divided the United States. Finally, something truly disturbing in my opinion is the use of the blank vote if the second turn opposes Marine Le Pen and an unlinked candidate, and more people than we think are ready to do this. I have met people that assure me they will act in this way, and some were just as young as me.
‘Denying cultural difference is dangerous’
The IPSOS poll also claims that in the second turn, both Macron and Fillon will surpass Marine le Pen. However, in the time remaining before the election, many things can still happen and impact on the elections outcomes. Since the IPSOS release in February the polls have evolved in diverse and unpredictable manners.
Interestingly, Macron has gained support from significant political figures. Recently François Bayrou a potential candidate for presidential elections and Manuel Valls the current Prime minister have both dedicated their support to the En March candidate. Since February his popularity has increased within polls. He has now just as many chances as Marine Le Pen for dominating the first round. On the other side, François Fillon has suffered from the Penelope-gate affair, which accused him of paying his wife for a job she did not actually do. An investigation started on February 24th. Furthermore, he has very recently decided that he will maintain his candidacy even if he is charged, despite previously mentioned that the only thing that would prevent him from being a candidate would be being indicted. After this announcement, several well-known supporters of Fillion such as Bruno Le Maire have fled his camp, and his popularity has suffered greatly. The far-left candidate Jean Luc Melenchon, who has recently known a surge in polls due to his oratory capacities, has even surpassed Fillon.
Certainly, Fillon is not the only candidate associated with scandal. Marine Le pen herself is involved in an affair, in which the European commission has paid her bodyguard who she claims is also her parliamentary assistant.
‘Fillon is not the only candidate associated with scandal.’
One can obviously question if all this media coverage is fairly distributed, and if it must be involved in one’s decision to vote. It can be said that actions show what someone represents and thus, spreads scandal doubts on whether a candidate is really reliable. But then again, all politicians are more or less involved in some suspicious affairs. If they’re not, journalists will eventually find something to tarnish their reputation.
This is certainly not a thing we should brag about, but we have reached a point in politics where we must vote for the ‘least bad’ candidate. Therefore I believe we need to focus on the most important criteria for being a president. This involves first a programme that is viable especially from an economic point of view as France is drowning in debts and suffering from unemployment. Also, a candidate that is tolerant and who is ready to face the difficulties that will be omnipresent while trying to reform the system, especially in France where change is hard to achieve.