France, an unpredictable ending to the presidential race

Amidst great uncertainty, four differing candidates are forcing their way into the Élysée Palace, in one of the tightest general elections in the history of the French Republic and a center pivot for the future of the construction of the European Union
Illustration by: Rosario Lucas
23/04/2017
12:13
Inder Bugarin / Corresponsal
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A French electorate of over 46 million will cast its vote in the first electoral round for the French presidency today and will resume its visit to the polls on May 7 for the second electoral round that will define the successor of sitting president François Hollande.

Amidst great uncertainty, four differing candidates are forcing their way into the Élysée Palace, in what has become one of the tightest general elections in the history of the French Republic and a center pivot for the future of the construction of the European Union.

For Gaspard Estrada, a political scientist at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), “There is no clear victor to this presidential race. Nobody knows for sure who will win.” he says in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL.

Estrada adds that “Should we follow the logic of the latest polls, we would have Macron against Le Pen, in the race for the second electoral round. However, this is not definite as we have seen how winners at the polls do not necessarily win the election, which results in an extremely uncertain situation.”

The outcome becomes more unpredictable after “the fear factor” installed after last Thursday’s terrorist attack in the Champs Elysees, which resulted in the death of a police officer and left two more people severely injured.

For months, polls have placed candidates at the opposite pole of the French political spectrum, Macron and Le Pen, as the victors of the first electoral round, with a lead of 24% and 23%, respectively, as per a BVA poll.

Far-right leader of the National Front, Marie Le Pen, refers to the election as a “a referendum for or against France” and has vowed to call for a referendum promoting France’s exit from the European Union, as well as to cease France’s participation as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), should she become the next French president.

The National Front was founded in 1972 by late devotees of the Vichy regime that cooperated with Nazi Germany.

Centrist, Emmanuel Macron, former Minster of Economy for sitting president François Hollande and founder of the independent movement En Marche! (Going forward!), has the courage to remain faithful to the European project in times where populism and nationalism abound and opts for a more supportive and united Europe led by a French-German axis.

“Before the general election, French politics had been confined to the Socialist and Republican bipolarity. The most salient aspect of this election is that we may very well get to the second electoral round without any of these players. Besides, one should note the impact on the international relations that result from this presidential race ”, says Estrada.

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, James Shields, professor of French Politics at Aston University, explains how the general election was laid “on a silver platter” for the republican faction, given the highly unpopular five-year-performance of socialist sitting president François Hollande and his inability to trigger economic growth and reduce unemployment.

Le Pen and Mélenchon had been two main players in the French presidential race of 2012 when they ended third and fourth and jointly amassed 28% of the electorate preferences.

“They have become stronger for the 2017 race, given the electorate's discontent, unease, and distrust of having lost five good years under Hollande.”, says Shields.

He adds that “Never in the history of the Fifth Republic had we faced the fact that the center-right and center-left, the two main political forces of French politics, had been ruled out of the second electoral round.”

“This would constitute conclusive evidence that the old bipolarity of the French political order is in complete decay and that a much more complex and disorderly order is entering center stage.”, concludes Shields.

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