The presidential election in France has more drama and scandal than our recent election. There are allegations of one candidate misusing Twitter, lashing out at the media, and taking a hard line on illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism. The current front runner is making accusations that the Russians are tampering with the election. If this sounds familiar, then Marine Le Pen and the presidential election in France will assuredly be interesting.
Anderson Cooper will interview Le Pen on 60 Minutes on Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. ET. A preview can be seen here. She has been described as a Trump-like candidate, but she may be even more blunt. In a recent BBC interview she replied to a question about France following the Brexit model with “Sorry, but don’t you think it’s time to stop with the propaganda?”
The electoral process in France is much different than the United States, but Americans should pay attention to what is happening in 2017, because populism and nationalism might be spreading to France if Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election. The latest polls show her only one percentage point behind Emmanuel Macron, who is currently in the lead.
A candidate must win 50% + 1 votes in order to win the election. This will result in two rounds; the first with all candidates, then the second with only the two front runners. The first will be held on April 23, 2017, and the second on May 7, 2017. French presidents can serve two consecutive five-year terms.
Five Major Candidates
- Marine Le Pen (National Front (FN) She now faces three years in prison for tweeting graphic pictures of ISIS violence in 2015. She intends to close radical mosques, drastically cut the flow of immigrants into the country, revise trade policy, and go back to using the franc rather than the euro. She also wants to withdraw from the European Union.
- François Fillon (Republicans (LR) He currently faces a possible indictment in a financial scandal in which his wife and children were ghost employees. They were paid nearly a million dollars in salary for doing virtually no work. He was leading the race until the scandal unfolded, so he plans to stay in until the end despite the controversy.
- Emmanuel Macron (En Marche! (EM) The media is currently reporting that he is the favorite to win after Fillon’s scandal. There have been persistent rumors that he had an affair with the president of France Radio, Mathieu Gallet. His positions are polar opposites of Le Pen. He favors free trade, cultural changes, immigration, and plans to remain in the European Union.
- Benoît Hamon (Socialist Party (PS) He is the “Bernie Sanders of France,” which means that he is anti-capitalist and anti-globalist. He wants to implement a universal income as well as legalize marijuana.
- Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Unsubmissive France (FI) He kicked off his campaign with a very cool hologram presentation to place emphasis on the technology that is part of his citizen revolution platform. He is a far-left politician with a large YouTube and social media following, so he is reaching younger and less traditional voters. Like Le Pen, he also professes a distaste for the media. He is portrayed as the people’s candidate because he wants to give power back to the citizenry.
For those not suffering from election fatigue in the U.S., following the French election will provide another opportunity to watch more spectacular political theater. The race is so close that it will be another nail-biter.