Voting in the first round of the French Presidential election takes place today and it’s been the talking point now for many months. It’s been a roller coaster ride with eleven candidates in the mix but now a tight four way race between Jean-Luc Mélanchon, Marine Le Pen, François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron. Today’s voting will see the top two polling candidates go through to the second round.
The far left’s Jean-Luc Mélanchon dubbed the ‘firebrand’ by the French media has been the surprise star in the past few weeks after his performances in the television debates saw him rise in the polls. He has made use of holograms to campaign in multiple locations at the same time. Melanchon wants to withdraw from Nato and exit EU treaties and is a fan of the late Hugo Chavez. There’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front Nationale (far right) who I most definitely do not want to see become President, although social conditions mean her nationalist, anti immigration, anti EU message resonates with many, especially the young for whom there’s high unemployment (24% for 18-24 year olds). She is also the leading candidate in the region I live in – Provence Alpes Cote d’Azure.
François Fillon is the conservative candidate who has been dogged by a number of scandals that even if they are the sort of thing that the political class does in France (so they say), demonstrates elitism and entitlement, surely one of the reasons people are deserting the mainstream parties in the first place. The scandals resulted in a steep drop in popularity although he has bounced back in recent weeks to become a strong contender. Fillon has a strong conservative and Catholic backing, which may see him get through to the second round. He was also a Prime Minister in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government so is seen by some as a safe pair of hands (as long as cash is not involved)! Emmanuel Macron (centrist) is a relative newcomer to politics compared to the other candidates and has youth and energy on his side. He is campaigning for reform but with a less aggressive platform than Fillon. He’s also been a Rothschild banker and this always comes up in conversation (although usually not in a good way). His marriage to his school teacher is also a talking point. Macron is the media favourite, although with lessons learnt from the US, perhaps this is not a good position to be in these days. The official Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon is not in serious contention as he is polling well below the others and to some extent is suffering from the legacy of François Hollande’s unpopularity.
The two highest polling candidates then go through to the second round on the 7th of May and the battle is on for the final spot. These elections happen only once every five years and the system gives the President extraordinary powers compared to other democracies. Really this race is up for grabs now and has been fairly gripping (in a political sense anyway). Unfortunately many French won’t be voting as none of the candidates appeal and they appear to be against tactical voting as well. It does point to a failure of the current system and a growing sense of disenchantment and disfranchisement. Others are still undecided on who to vote for – in fact a giant 28% according to some polls. I hope people get out and vote. This is an incredibly important election. Even though France is the second largest power in the EU it still has severe economic problems and there is a need for reform. The question of EU vs nationalism, closer relations with Russia vs a more Western outlook are other issues people are talking about, as well as a myriad of others. Le Pen polls well due to a strong desire for change due to a lack of trust of ‘establishment’ politicians, the fear of immigrants changing the fabric of French society and economic conditions and is not who I want to see lead this country, although I know people voting for her. I can understand their reasons only up to a point but not for what she stands for at all. I would vote if I could and I’d be voting Macron (although I’m not entirely confident that he’ll make the second round).
UPDATE : Macron made it through with Le Pen. So I’m feeling pretty confident he will pull it off as the polls were fairly accurate for the first round and for the second they predict a decent win for Macron. Interestingly the French media didn’t release the predicted final results until 8pm but you could read them on Twitter much earlier from a Belgian source.
Notes : Featured Image : Financial Times