By Alex Moore
You may or may not have seen recently that there was a prettttttty big election upcoming in France. This past weekend, French voters went to the polls in the first round of their Presidential election and cast their votes for any of 5 main candidates. The election will now move on to the second round of voting and one of the two remaining candidates will become the next head of state of arguably one of the 4 or 5 most powerful countries in the world. Let’s break down the results a little.
The results of the first round went almost exactly how we expected them to go given polling. Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist candidate and founder of France En Marche (France Working) won with 24%, while Marine Le Pen, the pseudo-fascist head of the far-right Front National finished second with a little over 21%. Francois Fillon, the conservative candidate finished 3rd, while Jean-Luc Melanchon, a communist, was the only other candidate to receive more than 7% of the vote.
This election cycle in France we have literally witnessed an explosion of the traditional left-right partisan divide in France. Combined, Macron and Le Pen’s respective parties have 3 seats in the French parliament. Moreover, the two candidates from establishment French political parties, the Socialists and Republicans, barely topped 25% combined in the first round voting. Instead, we witnessed a genuine communist and a neo-fascist, both of whom are radically anti-European Union, combine to poll at around 41%.
This last point brings me to this: I engage in no hyperbole when I say that the fate of the European Union is at stake on May 8th when French voters choose their next President. A Le Pen win would send shockwaves throughout international markets as she will surely seek to initiate a Frexit from the EU. The EU can survive one of its biggest and most dynamic economies leaving, but it most certainly cannot survive another. Should Le Pen win, it is entirely possible, if not likely that the European Project will in essence cease to exist in 5 years.
The flip side of the coin is Macron. Macron is a hardcore centrist and now has the backing of everyone in France who isn’t on the fringe-left (Melanchon refused to endorse him) or the fringe-right (Le Pen). Nonetheless, everyone who isn’t radically anti-EU, trade, immigration, etc. has now thrown their support behind him, much reminiscent of 2002 when the vast majority of France threw its support behind Jacques Chirac against Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. A Macron win would be huge for the EU. It would signal the 3rd consecutive high-profile election in a typically euroskeptic EU country that has gone well for pro-EU candidates (along with Austria and Holland) and will give Brussels a clean mandate to negotiate tough with Britain without having to deal with Le Pen.
So, while most polls and analysts predict that Macron should win fairly comfortably (greater than 60% support) we should still be just a little bit nervous. Turnout will be key. Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar. Radically right-wing candidate who nobody in their right mind supports against a competent centrist candidate who the fringe-left, so head over heals in love with their newfound fringe-left wing firebrand populist, refuses to really enthusiastically support. Sound at all like a recent election in the U.S? It should. (Thanks, Sanders and Stein supporters who couldn’t be bothered to vote for Hillary! Hope your conscience is clear!!!)
Another thing to watch for is Russian interference (sound familiar again)? Russia has constantly been seeking to hack into Macron’s team’s databases for the obvious reasons of trying to subvert the staunch pro-EU/anti-Russia candidate in order to elect the pro-Putin candidate that would likely result in the demise of the EU. This scares me. Macron had an entirely scandal free primary campaign (while others such as Fillon were constantly dogged with scandals) which makes me nervous that Macron may have a proverbial October surprise awaiting him these next couple of weeks. Literally all it takes for this election to go full on Trump 2016 is for hackers to find and release one email from Macron’s days as an executive where he may sound even remotely anti-worker leading to far-left French voters not turning out to vote for him.
My money is on Macron, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
Le monde ou rien, mais choisissez bien mes amis.'
Photo Credit: Danny Sellers