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French presidential election candidate for the 'En Marche!' (Onwards!) political movement, Emmanuel Macron celebrates after the first round of the French presidential elections in Paris, France, 23 April 2017. EPA/YOAN VALAT
French presidential election candidate for the 'En Marche!' (Onwards!) political movement, Emmanuel Macron celebrates after the first round of the French presidential elections in Paris, France, 23 April 2017. EPA/YOAN VALAT

Face to Face: French Voters Choose Centrist and Far-Right Candidates for Presidency

Emmanuel Macron (Center) and Marine Le Pen (far right) advanced to the runoff in France’s presidential elections on May 7. After the UK’s vote to leave the…

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Two antagonist proposals for the future of France and Europe: French voters on Sunday chose social-liberal Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen to go to a runoff to determine the next president, next May 7.  One is a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand who has gained the popular vote with nationalist and anti-immigration speeches, recalling Donald Trump's political campaign. 

Macron, 39, a former economy minister, is vying to become the Fifth Republic's youngest-ever president, while the leader of the National Front is intent on becoming the first woman to lead France.

The two leaders offer an opposite vision of the country.

Ms. Le Pen, a far-right and anti-EU firebrand, said the outcome was “that of a people who are raising up their heads.” Mr. Macron, who has never held elected office, said he wanted to be the “president of patriots, to face the threat of nationalists.”

This appears to be the first time that neither of the two large parties in France - the socialists and the conservatives - will field a candidate in a presidential runoff.

However, mainstream parties quickly rallied behind Mr. Macron. Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called upon his countrymen to vote against Le Pen in the runoff.

The outgoing head of government said that "the presence of a candidate of the extreme right ... obligates us to unite all supporters of the Republic against her."

Although his opponents tried to paint him as the heir of unpopular French President François Hollande, it appears that Macron - with his fresh image and proposal to "unblock" antiquated elements of French society - has struck a positive chord among voters.

Macron pulled his support from retirees, working people and independents, garnering about 25 percent of each group's votes, according to the Ipsos polling firm. He also managed to garner 24 percent of college graduates as well as the support of 32 percent of voters in households earning more than 3,000 euros (about $3,300) per month, as reported in EFE.

Le Pen, meanwhile, lost the lead she had enjoyed among the youngest voters, who inclined toward Melenchon.

The central message of Marine Le Pen’s campaign was the staple of the Front National party since it was co-founded by her father in 1972: keeping France for the French. Le Pen promised to give priority to French people over non-nationals in jobs, housing and welfare, and would hold a referendum to cement this policy into the constitution. She said she would demand extra tax from companies that employed any kind of foreign worker.

The National Front chief received her support from people who have trouble making it to the end of the month on their salaries (43 percent), those who feel that the next generation will have a lower living standard (25 percent) and those with the lowest incomes (32 percent), among others.

After the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the US vote for the political novice Donald Trump as president, the French presidential race is the latest election to shake up establishment politics by kicking out the figures that stood for the status quo, as reported in The Guardian.

The historic first-round result marked the rejection of the ruling political class – it was the first time since the postwar period that the traditional left and right ruling parties were both ejected from the race in the first round.

      
       

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