The Next Brexit?
by Hunter Katz
The French Presidential Election is just 2 weeks away. You are probably thinking: Another Presidential Election?! Why do I even need to care about what happens in France? You want to know that the next French President will be the most crucial in dealing with the United States relations and possible could be the death of the European Union. For the first time since after World War 2 neither of the two major parties in France, the left-wing Socialist Party lead by current French President Francois Hollande who is the most unpopular French president in modern history with just a 4% approval rating and the right-wing Republicans lead by Francois Fillon who is currently facing charges of a corruption scandal; are not in the runoff election on May 7th. Due to the popularity of Brexit (Great Britain voted to leave the EU to take more control of British issues) and the growing corrupt bureaucracy of the EU has propelled the National Front leader Marine Le Pen to face political newcomer and candidate of the new political party En Marche! Emmanuel Macron; in the runoff for the French presidency. This election could very well be the nail in the European Union’s coffin.
Marine Le Pen is the leader and candidate for The National Front; a right-wing populist party founded in the early 1970’s by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. The National Front was nominated once in the runoff in but lost to Republican candidate Jacques Chirac by a wide margin. In January 2011, his daughter Marine Le Pen took over as head of the National Front and began an overhaul of the branding of the party, shifting it away from xenophobic allegations to an economic nationalist and patriotic party dedicated to curbing terrorism, illegal immigration and a return to the French currency the Franc. Le Pen’s re-branding of the party and removal of her father Jean-Marie from the National Front has gained significant traction to the party and has a gained a following of youth supporters. Due to the significant unpopularity of French President Francois Hollande and the terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice has had the National Front skyrocket in membership rates. Many political analysts view her as “The French Donald Trump.” If Marine Le Pen is elected she will not only become the first National Front president but the first French female president. Some of Le Pen’s policies include a severe reduction in immigration only allowing 10,000 immigrants per year, a massive tax cut to small business, increased tariffs on non-French imported goods and most importantly a referendum on France leaving the European Union informally called the “Frexit.” However many are still hostile to a thought of a Le Pen Presidency as many view her policies not far from her father’s and opponents point out that if Le Pen is president that France will be subject anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The challenger facing Marine Le Pen is a political newcomer and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. Macron was a former ally of French President Francois Hollande and a member of the Socialist Party until last year he formed his own political party En Marche! Macron’s charismatic nature and youthful demeanor have gained traction for his new party which is in the Center of the political spectrum, however, leaning slightly to the Left of the political divide. Macron went on the win the first round of voting by a 3% advantage over Le Pen and many consider him to be the favorite to become the next French President. If Emmanuel Macron is elected, he has pledged to have France stay in the EU. Some of Macron’s policies include a globalist France with more European workers, a reform in France’s employment sector and increased public spending on social programs. Many political analysts view Macron as “The French Bill Clinton.” However, many view Macron to be very similar to the unpopular Francois Hollande and his failed policies, opponents view that Macron is “very weak” on terrorism and that France will be a more dangerous nation prone to terrorism as Macron’s support for open borders and would be more impacted with crime if he’s elected.
The French Presidential Election is critical to us as Americans because France is a close ally of the United States and the new French President assumes that new responsibility. Will France follow in the footsteps of Great Britain to elect Marine Le Pen and let populism reign and a possible end of the European Union? Or will Emmanuel Macron win and globalism continue to dominate Europe? Only time will tell.