On April 23, France held its initial presidential elections. Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron emerged as the victors. They will face off again on May 7 for the second and final round of the elections.
The results of the French elections will undoubtedly impact global events. The European Union is already dealing with the impending Brexit, and Le Pen has vowed to leave the Union as well. “A French government that abandons the Euro would be a far greater political shock than Britain leaving the EU,” say two analysts in an article published by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. Immigration--particularly from Muslim-majority countries--could also be suspended depending on the victor of the elections.
Le Pen is the leader of the far-right National Front, which is known for its history of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. In April, Le Pen said France was not responsible for the wartime roundup of Jews who were sent to the Nazi death camps—a comment that has been met with criticism. She wants France out of both the EU and NATO. She decries globalization and wishes to reduce immigration to 10,000 entries per year. Le Pen has vowed to fight “radical Islam,” but according to the European Parliament, she could be prosecuted for posting violent images of ISIS killings on Twitter.
Le Pen’s competitor, Emmanuel Macron, is a centrist who formed his own political party after none of the major political parties backed him. Despite his popularity, Macron has never been elected to office. He did, however, serve as the economy minister under former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Macron backs liberal, yet business-friendly measures to boost the economy and has called for increased defense and police spending, better pay for teachers, and French unity.
As the results came in, French politicians and several defeated candidates threw their support for Macron or spoke out against Le Pen. Current Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon have tweeted support for Macron. Republican candidate Francois Fillon told his supporters, “We have to choose what is preferable for our country, and I am not going to rejoice. Abstention is not in my genes, especially when an extremist party is close to power."
Recent events have played a role in influencing the outcome of the election. A deadly attack on a police bus in Champs-Elysees has prompted candidates to comment on the situation. Le Pen has called for the closure of all Islamist mosques, a comment that has prompted Cazeneuve to accuse her of capitalizing on the attack.
Polling could also be an issue as recent opinion polls show that a third of France’s voting population might choose to abstain from voting. By 5 p.m. local time, 69.42% of France’s 47 million registered voters had already cast their ballots. With the latest trend of global populism underway in Europe, the French election could significantly alter the fate of the EU and other significant global matters.