This Sunday, May 7, France will elect its next president. This has proven to be one of the most controversial elections since our own just a few short (or long, depending on your politics) months ago. The candidates in the running differ wildly from one another, but the election shares some similarities with our own polarized political climate.
The world political environment is as hot as ever, with continued unrest in the Middle East and a refugee crisis not seen in decades. As for France, it faces an ever-growing economic crisis, with unemployment reaching 10 percent. In addition, brutal terror attacks in the country—such as the Bastille Day Massacre, which killed over 80 people and wounded over 100—have ignited a firestorm of controversy regarding the immigration policies in Europe’s third-largest nation. The stage was set for a strong, ultra-right wing candidate like Marine Le Pen to take the spotlight.
This election remains very unusual, as neither of France’s major parties—the Republicans and the Socialists—carried through to the second round of voting, which takes place on Sunday. This has never happened since the current voting system began five decades ago. This dissatisfaction with current political parties has taken hold across Europe, and some would say even in the United States as well.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right nationalist and head of the National Front, has made headlines with the policies she has put forth during the campaign. She’s made waves across France, with many calling her the French Donald Trump. Her primary support stems from rural areas, much like Trump’s. On the other end of the spectrum is Emmanuel Macron, of the En Marche movement, who is considered the voice of radical centrism. He represents the moderate voice of the people with the majority of his support coming from urban areas.
In an article by the Washington Post, French political scientist Dominique Moïsi refers to the polarization of the two political stances: “On the one hand, you have global openness, based on hope. On the other, you have a party of nationalistic closure, based on fear.”
There’s no question that the current climate in world politics is as focused on nationalism as ever, and considering the threats that face democratic nations like France, the U.K., and the United States, it isn’t hard to understand this position. However, this type of xenophobic, ultra-right-wing policy is not without consequences, and can threaten the freedoms we have so often taken for granted. Not to let my Liberal side shine too brightly, but an effort to effect real change in hopeful and positive ways is far better than isolationism based on fear and ignorance.
In striking similarity to the US presidential elections, a massive block of emails from Macron’s team were released by hackers, however, this attack came in the final day of campaigning. In a statement released by Macron’s party stated, “[t]he En Marche! Movement was the victim of a massive and coordinated hack on Friday which gave rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information”. Though nothing can be definitively confirmed, the blame for this latest election hack is being parked at the door of the Russians. One expert stated in an interview with Reuters that it is the same group responsible for the US election hack, APT 28 and they have connections to the GRU, Russian military intelligence.
Regardless of Russia’s latest alleged attack on Western elections, the likely outcome of Sunday’s election remains the same, a Macron win. And before you mention Brexit or Trump’s win, he is miles ahead of his opponent, with more than a 20% lead in the latest polls (22.9 as of Saturday). That being said, the popularity of Le Pen’s National Front isn’t going away, and remains a force to consider as the French parliamentary elections are just over the horizon in June.
The world and the global markets hold their breath as they wait for the official outcome this weekend. The question that persists is if Russia is truly the enemy of Western civilization than shouldn’t the choice of candidate be clear?
Featured image courtesy of thesun.co.uk