French Elections; What Does It Mean?
France has had more than its share of terrorist events and that fact has crept into the country's politics. It has propelled one of two parties competing for the presidency into prominence for the post. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen made it through round one to fight it out in a run-off election. The first round of voting occurred on April 23, 2017, and the second round run-off will happen on May 7, 2017.
Neither finalist comes from either of the country's two leading parties. News sources characterize them both as outsiders, although Macron had worked as the Deputy Secretary General and Economy Minister for French president Hollande. The candidates from the country's two major parties only accounted for less than 27 percent of the total vote. The voters have spoken.
If this sounds like it bears a resemblance to the last U.S. presidential election, you would be right. There is a degree of opposition to the traditional, establishment politicians that became apparent with the results of the first round of voting.
The French Presidential Election
The French presidential election occurs in two phases, with the top two finalists in the first round going on to a second round after two weeks. To make it as a candidate in the first round, each needs to have gathered 500 signatures from elected officials and be a French citizen.
The first round included 11 candidates with only five getting a reasonable percentage of the vote. If any candidate received 50 percent of the vote, there would be no round two, but this has never happened in France.
Who are the Round Two Candidates?
Le Pen appeals to the patriotic French who have been stunned and fearful because of repeated terrorist attacks against their country. She is the candidate of the Front National party and has also run on a platform of withdrawing from the EU and the euro, restoring law and order, bringing back French culture and identity and giving job and housing priority to French citizens. She is a former lawyer and has led her party since 2011.
Macron is the candidate of the En Marche! party. Macron political career began as the Deputy Rapporteur for the commission to improve French growth; a post within the French Treasury. In 2008, he joined Rothschild Bank and eventually became an associate. He was the Head of the Economy and Finances Division from 2012 to 2014 as well as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidency during those years also. In 2014, he then became the Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs; the youngest person to hold this position.
Ironically, the French, English and American press characterize Mr. Macron as an outsider because of his four-year stint as a banker. Both candidate's parties are outsiders as finalists going into round two. Because polls put Mr. Macron in the lead in a run-off, and he wants to remain in the EU, the euro was up two percent after the first-round results were known. Speculators don't want anyone rocking the boat and Ms. Le Pen would like France to pull out of the EU.
Round two will determine if the French people want to put French citizens first and to cut ties with the EU or maintain the status quo, more or less.