Elections in France are fast approaching, and the competition is rife between three candidates: Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.
The election system in France is quite different than the Electoral College system in the USA or the representative democracy of the UK and India.
In France there are two rounds of voting. In the first round, all the candidates face off and the top two, based on number of votes, go ahead to the second round. In the second round, the candidate with the most votes becomes the President.
The current situation
Let’s have a look at the current situation in France. Since the 50s, France has always been welcoming towards immigrants. A large amount of the French population can trace their ancestry to Africa. People have been living harmoniously for a long time and no particular racial problems have been observed. In fact, in one of my articles, I’ve written about the importance of immigration in France by citing the example of their football. You can read that article here.
However, times have changed. The Charlie Hebdo attacks and the November 2015 attacks in Paris have dealt a major blow to people’s perception on immigration. More and more people are becoming skeptical of unchecked immigration and are now having a suspicious view of Islam. This in turn has given rise to right wing populists and other neoconservatives.
The current President is Francois Hollande. Hollande is a member of the Socialist Party, and from a libertarian point of view, he’s a candidate we wouldn’t even think of voting for. Islamic terrorism coupled with economic stagnation has made Hollande extremely unpopular amongst French voters. He himself has gauged this sentiment, and has decided against running for President.
That leaves us with the four major candidates. Hollande’s Socialist Party has nominated Benoit Hamon, a critic of Hollande as its nominee. Hamon can be compared with Bernie Sanders, and he himself has claimed that he is an admirer of the Vermont senator. He believes in the typical leftist ideologies of minimum wage and higher taxes; he is also supportive of legalization of marijuana and euthanasia. Basically, a candidate Jill Stein voters will moon over.
Francois Fillon is the next candidate. Representing Les Republicains, Fillon is running on a typical evangelical conservative path. He has brought his religion to the fore of his campaign, and has sometimes given hints that he’ll outlaw gay marriage. He has confirmed that he’ll not allow gay couples to adopt a child and is against the decriminalization of marijuana. An economic conservative, he opposes the wealth tax and instead wants to increase taxes on the rich.
Fillon is definitely not someone who libertarians will want to vote for, but many might just vote for him due to his capitalist leanings. He was considered to be the frontrunner for a long time, but has since been embroiled in a corruption scandal, which has hit his popularity hard. According to the Business Insider, more than two-thirds of French voters now want him to drop out of the race.
The third candidate is Marine Le Pen. Daughter of far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen, Le Pen is currently leading in every opinion poll for the first round. Her Front Nationale party gained ground on an anti-immigration policy and she has continued the same rhetoric. But, she has mellowed considerably on other conservative stances. She has supported gay marriage, unconditional abortion and removal of death penalty. Economically, she’s quite leftist. She opposes laissez-faire and is a vehement critic of free markets. She unconditionally supports protectionism and opposes the privatization of any government owned entity. Le Pen has also supported Alexis Tsipras’s far left SYRIZA government in Greece which is almost communist, if you ask me. The fact that Trump voters consider her to be the best option and that the media calling her “far-right” is completely puzzling.
(Marine Le Pen)
The fourth and the most interesting candidate is Emmanuel Macron. Macron was a former minister under Hollande. He was a part of the Socialist Party and was handling economy, industry and digital data portfolios. He resigned in 2016 and started his own movement named En Marche, and is running in the elections under the same banner. Before joining politics, he was an investment banker.
Macron was quite a right winger in the government. He privatized France’s transportation system, creating 13,000 jobs and lowering transportation costs. He also made a controversial law which allowed business owners to call their employees for work on Sunday, something which rattled the French. He is an unabashed supporter of free markets and prefers small government. He’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative – almost libertarian. The fact that he was a member of the Socialist Party is totally confounding.
Confused to the core, I decided to do what rookies do. I went to isidewith.com. and It showed that I agreed 50% with Macron, 41% with Fillon and 39% with Hamon. In comparison, isidewith.com showed that I agreed 88% with Gary Johnson. I won’t consider this seriously as isidewith.com is seriously flawed and is just bad for nations other than USA and UK. I do not even dare to take the India one!
Macron is a Europhile. He believes that the EU makes France a stronger country. He has also said that France should consider banning the burqa and niqab. He is also a committed supporter of Israel.
While he might not be the “perfect” candidate, Macron is the one I would vote for if I were a French citizen. With Fillon falling behind, Macron is most likely to fight Le Pen in the second round.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Jean Marie Le Pen was using a nativist narrative in order to win the presidency. To counter Le Pen’s perceived racism, the French voted en masse to stop him from becoming the president. This might repeat in 2017. People might just vote for Macron to ensure that Marine Le Pen doesn’t become the president. In fact, Macron has a better chance of defeating Le Pen than any other candidate.
These are indeed strange times!
* Varun Gajendragadkar is a junior year engineering student from Vellore Institute of Technology in India with an avid interest in politics. He is the President of The Hindu E-Plus Club in his university. He is on the centre-right of the political spectrum with libertarian-ish views. He maintains his own blog: opinionatedmoderate.wordpress,com
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