Since the Brexit referendum (2015), and the Trump election last year, Europe face a new challenge through the French election. The first round is set to be held on April 23rd, followed by the second round two weeks later, on May 7th. This presidential election, seems confusing, as the US election was for Americans.
(Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – satirical analysis of the French election).
It also may represent the collapse of the main traditional political party: Les Républicains (Republicans – conservative right-wing) and the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party – social democratic center-left-wing). Under the 5th Republic, every French president elected came from both movements: either liberal conservative or social democrat.
This election seems particularly confusing considering that for the first time, both of these movements may not be present for the presidential election second round in May. The Socialist Party (PS) has lost its popular electorate, due to the disappointing President F. Hollande mandate (2012-2017). The French defiance against the PS leaders, and its presidential nominee B. Hamon, considered to be held responsible for the review of Hollande mandate. The defiance against the Republicains is through its candidates, François Fillon. The Canard Enchainé famous French satirical newspaper revealed that he’s been squandering public funds, to remunerate his wife, leading to a major scandal, called as “Penelope-gate”. The newspaper issued the scandal in January 2017, so in the middle of the Presidential election, weakening the whole Républicains hope to win back the Presidency after N. Sarkozy presidency.
Then, the Marine Le Pen’s Front National (National Front – far-right wing), aim to follow the path of the Brexit referendum and the Trump election, to take advantage of the surge of populist rhetoric among the public debate. It’s notably centred on the issues about the E.U, the refugee crisis, and the economic crisis makes the E.U to be perceived as a threat by some of its popular electorate.
Also, Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement seems to be the Presidential front-runner. The social liberal candidate aims to round up the electorate lost in front of the PS and Republicain failure, and feared by the rise of populist movement (with M. Le Pen, and J.L Mélenchon). The candidate is still very criticised for being the Economy Minister under Hollande presidency, and for its close ties to its former job at Rothschild bank.
The last (main) candidate is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France Insoumise (The Rebellious France – left-wing), is known for anti-E.U, and anti-capitalism positions, as well as humanist positions towards the refugees/immigrants and socio-economical equality matters. The candidate is on the rise in the last month, less likely to be present for the Presidential second round.
This campaign remains confusing for a great part of French, who never experienced such a campaign. Most of them do not trust any of the candidates, similarly to Hillary Clinton mistrust among the U.S public, leading to the Trump victory (despite a low approval rate).
To learn more about the candidates, click here.
I’ve contacted some French citizens and undecided voters, from different backgrounds to collect their feeling about this particular campaign.
Romain. T (23 years old – Paris): young worker, conservative-liberal movement.
“My personal resentment on this presidential campaign are that french people are disenchanted, our country is divided, more divided than ever … I feel that the candidates for the election caricatured themselves, they make a “Politics show”. I don’t really know for whom to voted, on side we have the National Front with a dangerous and closed politic and another side “Le rassemblement d’Emanuelle Macron” with an inexperienced candidate”
Camille. D (22 years old – Strasbourg) : student
“I don’t usually pay attention to politics, but since a few months the presidential election is all over the media, it seems like it’s the only subject apparently worth the attention. It all started with the “Penelope-gate”, the media talk more about Fillon scandal than other important subjects. This year is pretty worrying. Candidates representing extreme political movement are quite popular. Any candidates seem to able to respond to the French needs in terms of terrorism, unemployment, and corruption. It’s hard to be reassured for our country future with all what’s happening in the world: the Trump election, Brexit …”
Sandrine, S. (49 years old – Toulouse): high school teacher, social-democrat
“I’ve always voted for the first time in 1988. This year election is pretty puzzling. It’s the first time that I’m so confused about an electoral campaign and for three reasons.
It’s the first time that globalisation issues seems to be the most important element to consider in this campaign, regarding the E.U, trade with Asia, foreign policy, I feel that there’s little margin for error. Also, we feel in-between two worrying Superpowers: Trump’s America, and Putin’s Russia. Our president must be able to communicate with these two countries.The second reason is concerning scandals. Fillon scandal is the perfect example of how an elected deputy under investigation, can still run for the Elysée. It has overshadowed over the campaign since.
The third reason would be the number of “little candidates” who will not be up 4% in the first presidential round. The 11 candidates have to share the spotlight, which led an inaudible campaign, due to the fact that all candidates must have the same media exposure.”