Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
The 2017 French Presidential election will take place on 23 April 2017. Should no candidate win an outright majority (which seems likely), a second round of the election will take place, on 7 May 2017.
The 2017 French Presidential election will be influenced by the spate of terrorist attacks that have targeted Europe in the past two years, economic stagnation, unemployment, and the extended state of Emergency that has been in effect in the country since the November 2015 Paris Attacks. The rise of populism and Euroscepticism are also major players (especially since the victory of pro-Brexit groups in the United Kingdom and the Republican Party in the United States).
This year’s French Presidential election is unique for the massive interest it has generated and for the far-reaching implications it will have on Europe and the world.
Let us try to understand the French election process, the main candidates in the fray, and why the election will have enormous implications.
France works on the two-round (runoff) voting system.
The election on 23 April is the first round. If no candidate wins with a majority, a runoff election will take place on 7 May. The run-off will only be between the top two vote winners in the first round.
The main political parties contesting the election are:
On 18 March 2017, it was announced that 11 candidates had fulfilled the requirements for running in the election.
The candidates of the four main parties are:
Incumbent President Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party dropped out of the race on 1 December 2015 due to low approval ratings. Therefore, this will be the first French election since 1958 in which a sitting president will not seek a second term
“I want to reconcile opinions. Our country is divided, by fear, and by the way some people play on fear. You are not the problem – the problem is that the established order is not the right one. I propose pragmatism, with zero tolerance. My project is one that will make France proud. Profound change, that’s our project. It’s a profound renewal of French politics. I want France, our country, to offer a chance – a chance for each and every one of you.” – Emmanuel Macron.
In the early stages of the campaign, François Fillon – who is a former Prime Minister – was a clear frontrunner. However, his numbers have dropped in the past few weeks after the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné published revelations that Fillon possibly employed family members in fictitious jobs as parliamentary assistants in what came to be known as “Penelopegate“.
Emmanuel Macron has since then been among the top two contenders. At 39, he is the youngest candidate in the race. A former economy minister who has never run for elected office, Macron describes himself as “neither of the right nor the left” and his rise has been momentous and despite any major party endorsements.
The reason why the French election has generated international interest, however, is because of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen. She is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front and who sent political shock waves in 2002 when he made it to the second round of the Presidential election. A former lawyer who ran in the 2012 French election and came in third, Le Pen is known for her far-right opinions on immigration, the European Union, and secularism.
Le Pen has often been compared with Donald Trump due to her controversial opinions, even been hailed as France’s Trump or the female Donald Trump. As James Traub wrote in Foreign Policy:
“Does it matter that France’s Donald Trump can demonise Muslims with a gracious smile instead of a vicious Twitter tirade? Politically it does: Le Pen has set out to detoxify the party she inherited from her crackpot anti-Semite of a father, and she seems to be doing it quite well. That makes her more far more dangerous to France than he was. Current polls indicate that she is still unlikely to be France’s next president, but it feels like a real possibility in a way that it never did with Jean-Marie Le Pen.”
As things currently stand, no candidate will win an outright majority in the first round of the election – which will be held on 23 April. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are the favourites to contest in the second round, the winner of which will become the next President of the French Republic.
“Most of the promises you’ve heard tonight cannot be put into practice because the EU will prevent them. You, the French, have the right to decide. Uncontrolled globalisation has been a disaster for you. I will do nothing against your will. I will start negotiations with Europe, and I will organise a referendum. I call on you to vote for liberty. If you make the right political choices things will improve immediately.” – Marine Le Pen.
In many ways the 2017 French Presidential election is unique. French elections are never this divisive, involving extremist rhetoric and far-reaching consequences. The two main reasons why this election has generated global interest are:
According to statistics provided by the European Commission:
The French election will determine the future of the European Union, with whom India has deep economic and bilateral ties.
Furthermore, the features of globalisation and macroeconomics will undoubtedly lead to effects of the French election sending ripples to India as well. These ripples could be particularly brutal in the case of a Le Pen victory.
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