BY MORGAN UNDERWOOD – STAFF WRITER
We are now through the first round of the French Presidential Elections, going from four main candidates to two. The Front National Leader Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron of the newly created (only this past September) En Marche party are the two candidates that earned the votes in the first round of elections. Dropping the two other leading candidates Francois Fillon and Jean Luc Melechon. Macron has emerged as the front runner after this round in the election by somewhat of a margin, Macron’s 23.9% to Le Pen’s 21.4%.
Anyone following the French election is well aware of what is at stake here for the future of France and the potential rippling effect it may have over Europe. France is currently suffering from high unemployment, a stagnating economy, issues with immigration and integration, and security worries (especially since the April 15th attack on The Champs-Elysses). It have been quite the rollercoaster of an election thus far, the French people choosing what is almost a complete rejection of the French political establishment, for the first time since 1958 no candidate from the two main political parties has made it through to the second round of elections. The French people have made it clear they are ready for change, most likely due to the great unpopularity of current French President Francois Hollande (who comes from the French Socialist Party).
Macron and Le Pen are certainly game changers. Macron, as stated above, comes from the En Marche party, and takes a very pro-European centrist stance. He seems to be the clear frontrunner in the elections and it is expected that most voters who did not initially vast their vote for Macron will be switching to his side for the 2nd round of elections. Macron has gained endorsement from quite a few other political figures. Current President Francois Hollands has said on Macron, “(He) will allow all the French to come together, to rally around in the most precarious difficult moment of the history of France.” Even former Republican candidate Francois Fillon has given support for Macron; saying of Le Pen and the Front National party, “I promise you, extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France.” It is exactly this “extremism” that Fillon mentions that has both propelled Le Pen forward in the elections but also hold her back from many voters. Stated by President Hollande in a quote from CNN “that a vote for Le Pen would be a “risk”.” Thus La Pen is definitely facing an uphill battle, but not an impossible one seeing that The Front National Party has had its highest ever voting record in this recent round of elections. La Pen capitalizing on rising tensions on immigration and anti-Muslim sentiments, many comparing her to current U.S. President Donald Trump. (It’s quite a bit more difficult to make a comparison between Clinton and Macron, Macron also embodying an anti-establishment attitude in this election.)
This comparison might leave many left-leaning individuals with worries about the outcome of this election. Republican Donald Trump was not believed to be, by many, the leading candidate in the recent U.S. presidential elections but managed to beat well-known democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Two candidates with wildly different opinions on just about every issue that was important to voters, a seemingly clear parallel to the current French elections. Macron and Le Pen disagreeing on basically all areas of policy: security, immigration, Europe, and Unemployment. Nevertheless, many are putting their hearts and minds with who they believe to be the future winner of this election, Emmanuel Macron. Yet in an honest election fashion, the votes will tell us where the hearts and minds of the French people truly lie on May 7th.