French election to decide fate of the EU

An outsider’s perspective on the 2017 French presidential election


French presidential elections are held every five years, and viable candidates of a vast spectrum of ideologies take part. Photo courtesy of The Student’s Mail.

Benson Gathany

It is not an exaggeration to say that France’s upcoming presidential election will decide the fate of the European Union, and seriously impact European history.

As an American publication with a majority American audience, it is only natural for us to tend to focus disproportionately on our own current events. In the case of the upcoming French elections, I feel it is necessary to make an exception to this rule. After all, recent events in America have taught me a thing or two about right wing populists winning their elections despite the considered opinions of the professionals.

Complicated as their electoral process may seem, in a nutshell, France’s president is chosen by two rounds of voting: a first round with all eligible candidates, and a second round between the two highest scoring candidates from the first round.

Why is this particular election so important for the European Union’s continued existence? Marine Le Pen, the most popular candidate, is against France being a part of that union.

France has a long history in the EU. The country was one of six who signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, forming the EEC (European Economic Community), the precursor to the modern EU. They are the seventh largest economy in the world, and the third largest in the EU (soon to be second once Brexit is finalized), and a vital contributor to the EU’s continued prosperity.

So why does Le Pen want France out?

Le Pen’s argument is based on the fundamental principle of national sovereignty. If France is to continue on as a state independent of a federalized EU, serious renegotiations, and perhaps even a “Frexit”, are in order. Other arguments, such as monetary sovereignty and a desire for greater control over her own borders all stem from this central point.

As the numbers stand, Le Pen and her party the Front National will be facing former socialist Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the election. Macron is the leader of his own brand new party, En Marche!, and is a strong proponent of France strengthening its ties with the rest of Europe.

Current polls have Macron and Le Pen at a near draw. Voters from the three runners up, Republican Fillon and Socialists Mélenchon and Hamon, will decide the second round.

If this is indeed the case, the election will likely be decided by voters from the third most popular candidate, François Fillon of the center-right party Les Républicains, who until recently was projected to be Le Pen’s opponent in the second round.

Will enough Les Républicains voters switch to Le Pen to push her over the top, or will the left-wing coalition rapidly forming behind Macron be triumphant? I, for one, will be watching with bated breath, even if I’m only one of a handful of Americans doing so.

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