Why the Upcoming French Election will be most Consequential in EU History
It was an exciting race yesterday, with centrist novice candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist candidate Marine Le Pen coming in first and second place.
The race was tight, with less than 5% separating fourth place from first:
• Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!) 23.9%
• Marine Le Pen (National Front) 21.5%
• Francois Fillon (Republican) 19.9%
• Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) 19.6%
The numbers above reflect 97% of counted ballots, and Mélenchon has refused to accept the results until the tallying is finished. Macron and Le Pen will face off in the second round of elections on May 7th. Whoever wins will determine a new direction for France, and potentially the entire EU.
Sunday’s results mirrored recent events – like Brexit and Trump’s election in the US – where voters rejected tradition. For the first time since 1958, French voters selected candidates belonging to neither of the nation’s establishment parties.
“A new political world is happening,” says French sales manager and Le Pen supporter Michael Amaouz. “It’s truly satisfying, and we’ll be even more satisfied in 15 days. We believe in it, and today we are mobilizing – all of France is mobilizing. People are fed up.”
The people’s distrust of the government stems from ongoing economic struggles combined with a 10% unemployment rate and the constant threat of terror.
Many believe the recent terror attacks helped propel Marine Le Pen’s National Front Party to to never-before-seen heights.
Le Pen, who inherited the National Front from her father (Jean-Marie Le Pen), has worked diligently to separate the party from it’s anti-Semitic past. Le Pen is staunchly anti-immigration and anti-Islam. The 48-year-old has promised to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the EU within her first 6 months as president.
Macron, on the other hand, believes France needs the EU. He supports open-door immigration policies and lax labor laws. Macron left President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government a year ago to found his own political party, En Marche! He is 39 years old and has never held political office. Polls favor him to win by a wide margin on May 7th.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was one of many politicians to back Macron as the results became clear. He asked the nation to support Macron to “combat the National Front’s disastrous project to take France backward and to divide the French people.”
European leaders in other countries, who traditionally stay out of each other’s elections, are breaking the rules in asking France to vote for the candidate who supports a stronger EU.
Peter Altmaier, top adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that Macron’s win showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”
These endorsements could backfire if Le Pen wins.
“It may be counterproductive,” warns Josef Janning, a member of Berlin’s office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.”
Defeated candidates Benoît Hamon (a Socialist) and Fillon Francois (a Republican) urged voters not to back Le Pen. “The party crated by Jean-Marine Le Pen has a history known for its violence and intolerance,” said Fillon. “Its economic and social program will lead our country to failure.”
May 7th could mark the most influential election in EU history. To me, the decision is clear. Le Pen does pose a threat to the EU with her promise to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc, but Macron’s open-door policies are a larger threat to France and Europe as a whole.
Le Pen knows that continued immigration will destroy France. “The French people must seize this opportunity, because the enormous challenge of this election is the wild globalizing that puts our civilization at risk,” she said.
“Either we continue to disintegrate without any borders, without any controls, unfair international competition, mass immigration and the free circulation of terrorists, or you choose France with borders.”
Editor’s note: An open-door immigration policy that continues to allow Islamic extremists to enter could easily spell the end of France. If France votes to leave the EU, it will likely be the end of the EU. Either way, the world changes radically.