French election reveals emerging European trends

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/24 10:23:47

The first round of voting for France’s presidential election concluded earlier today. As results have shown, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will face off in the second and final round of the election on May 7.

This first round outcome almost mirrors results from previous voting polls taken before the first round run-off. It seems that the election has shined a spotlight on emerging and important trends in French politics.

First of all, the two biggest political parties, which have dominated France for decades, were defeated, thus upending the country's traditional political establishment. Regardless of whether Macron or Le Pen wins the election, it will dramatically reshuffle France’s political structure. The impact the new president will have on domestic politics will be greater than that of Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election. The voting results have shown the citizens of France have lost their patience with past performances of former ruling parties and now have strong aspirations for political change. 

Moreover, Le Pen will advance to the final round of voting of the presidential election, a victory for far-right political forces both in France and Europe. The progress of the National Front has surprised many.  Le Pen and her party have risen from being an unconventional political entity in Europe, to now sitting in the second position in the latest election. When taking into consideration the oncoming change in France along with other political world events, such as Britain’s exit from the EU and Trump’s victory in the US, people may gain a clearer picture of the dramatic transformations currently underway throughout the world. 

The first round voting result reveals how French citizens are in agreement over a need for change while remaining unsure on the nature of those changes. This is the reason why there are now two presidential hopefuls with sharply different political viewpoints. Macron supports France’s embrace of globalization and wants to remain in the European Union and Eurozone. 

In contrast, Le Pen, dubbed the "French Trump,” desires dramatic transformations within French diplomatic and social policies. Even though Trump was elected US president, he has been subject to a variety of limitations over power and authority since he first took office. So with that mind, if Le Pen wins the election, she would still likely not be able to do all the things she wants. 

Most observers have predicted a Macron victory, an outcome that would make him the youngest president in the history of France. The 39-year-old independent candidate holds centrist political viewpoints, a position that helped him gain support from members of both left and right parties. As a former government minister, should he become president, he would be expected to bring about more formal or institutionalized changes, instead of fundamental moves focused on the country’s direction. 

The impact a Macron presidential victory would have on Europe would be nothing short of far-reaching. Macron is young and energetic, an image of reform and change. He has vowed to break the country’s political establishments while standing in line with mainstream French values. Macron could be an exemplary and inspirational force for other European politicians to follow. 

Le Pen, to face off against Macron in two weeks, is facing a few disadvantages. François Fillon, the candidate who conceded defeat and placed third in the election, afterwards called on voters to support Macron and to reject Le Pen in the final round.

Although Le Pen’s nickname is the "French Trump,” she is actually very different from her supposed American counterpart. Trump, a successful businessman and a novice in politics, looks tough and yet is more practical and flexible than traditional politicians. In contrast, Le Pen is more of a typical politician, whose worldview has been shaped by her father. She also has the strong support of her National Front party. On the other hand, her background also makes it difficult for her to "rebel" within her own country.

Right now, France is thinking hard over what its next step should be, and is therefore hesitant out of cautionary concern. The European Union is watching, bracing itself for what could be another insurmountable blow. France’s hesitation and anxieties stem from economic stagnation and the sharp increase in terrorism on their own soil, issues deeply rooted in complex reasons. However, those two problems cannot simply be solved by political determination from either side. The French know very well just how hard it is to find a solution. They know that reaching a solution does not entirely hinge upon determination and hard work within any cause. It is for this very reason that they have remained hesitant.

For the upcoming final round in France’s presidential election, most French and European observers believe Macron will win. Those same experts obviously run the same risk in making the wrong prediction, similar to what happened with the US presidential election result. If Macron wins, it does not mean Le Pen has worked tirelessly for nothing. Her political career could suffer some frustrations, but the far-right political force has grown during her presidential campaign. If she turns into the "black swan" and defeats Macron, for many Europeans, her victory will toll the bell of the European Union.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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