French presidential elections: will it be Le Pen or Macron?

In four days’ time, the French will be casting their vote for their new Head of State, amidst social unrest, political disarray, and internal fears, because terrorist attacks can happen anytime anywhere. The choice is between two different candidates and two utterly different worldviews: on the one hand the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, the archetypical far-right politician, and, on the other, Emmanuel Macron, thirty-nine, former economy minister under François Hollande and financier. Who is going to win? Let’s analyse the French situation and draw some conclusions about the two candidates in the run-off.

Jean Luc Mélenchon
Jean Luc Mélenchon. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, April 23rd, the first round of the French presidential elections took place. Five candidates were lining up for the presidency: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (“France Untamed”), Benoît Hamon (Socialist Party), Emmanuel Macron, leader of the social-liberal party En Marche (“Forward!”), François Fillon, former PM and leader of the right-wing party Les Républicains (“The Republicans”), who had been involved in a financial scandal concerning his wife and children, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front. Against all odds, Hamon and Fillon did not manage to make it to the second round. Mélenchon, was able to appeal to young voters, yet he did not make it through and Macron and Le Pen turned out to be the two adversaries for the second round.

I think that it is important to draw some initial conclusions at this stage: the candidates of the traditional French political parties, the Socialist Party and the Gaullists, lost, proving the crumbling and unsteady nature of traditional ideologies. The international context of uncertainty allowed a populist candidate to win and, at the same time, financial group bankers rejoiced when Macron appeared to be Le Pen’s adversary.  

Who are the two?

Marine Le Pen is a lawyer and took over the party from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a controversial political figure that denies the Holocaust and is an avowed anti-Semite.

Although Marine has reshaped the party over the years, she has recently made disturbing statements over the last few weeks, like her intention to deprive French Jews of their status and has attacked French Protestants, causing a controversy with the Protestant communities. She also came under fire for exploiting the attack on the police officer on patrol on the Champs Elysées for political reasons. Her detractors maintain that France risks becoming a closed society, should she become president, as she plans to quit the EU, the NATO, and launch nationalist programmes. Furthermore, under her presidency, cornerstones of the French identity, like the 1905 laicism law, will be in danger.

Emmanuel Macron does not sing from the same hymnbook as Le Pen. Former economy minister, Rothschild banker, and a graduate of the prestigious National School of Administration, his political identity is very ambiguous: he claims he is neither right-wing nor left-wing and, according to many critics, he comes across as being too cold and detached. In addition to that, his programme is driven by neoliberal policies that risk aggravating social inequalities. Nevertheless, he is an eager support of the EU (on Sunday evening, he spoke with a European flag behind his shoulders), something most European governments acknowledged (Angela Merkel did not hide her happiness for him having won the first round).

What conclusions can be drawn? The final outcome is unpredictable, but I do sincerely hope that Le Pen will not win because her style and rhetoric are too disruptive, divisive, and aggressive. Even though I do not like Macron’s programme, his approach is much more tolerant, yielding, and unifying. Thus, I hope the latter will win for the sake of France and the European Union.

-Andrea Di Carlo

Featured image: La liberté guidant le peuple, Eugène Delacroix (Wikimedia Commons)

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