As anticipated by most observers, liberal globalist Emmanuel Macron and populist nationalist Marine Le Pen were selected by French voters to move on to round two in France’s presidential election, scheduled for May 7th. For the first time in the 59-year history of the French Fifth Republic neither of the country’s two main parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, made the second round of presidential balloting. Either the socialists or the center right have run France since the 1950s, but with this election the old model has been shattered.
When the two-round system was created, it was expected that the main candidates of right and left would get around 30% in round one, and then rally satellite parties to their side for the run-off. But this time there were four candidates — with four very different versions of what to do next — all split nearly evenly at around 20%, so whoever is elected will be a minority candidate. The latest figures from the French Interior Ministry have Macron at 24%, Le Pen at 21.3%, while conservative François Fillon missed the runoff at 20%, Left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon at 19.6% and Socialist Benoît Hamon at a paltry 6.4%.
By all accounts Macron, is likely to pick up the most votes in the runoff and will almost certainly become the next president. Marine Le Pen will fight a hard campaign, and her totals will rise, but it is almost inconceivable that she will win, according to the French and International press. Apart from this speculation, what conclusions can be drawn thus far?
First, last Sunday’s vote has shown France to be deeply divided. Four candidates with markedly different views came within a few points of one another in the vote on Sunday, suggesting that the fight about what vision of France will dominate the future is far from over.
Second, many voters are angry at current policies, including economic policies and open borders, which are seen as responsible for an endless series of terrorist attacks. For the first time ever, neither of the top two candidates represents the establishment parties. Le Pen campaigned stridently against Muslim immigration, linking it to security threats, and she may have benefited from a final surge of support after a terrorist attack in Paris two days before the election, the latest in a string of atrocities that have beset France over the past two years.
Third, the socialist left has been left in ruins. Just five years ago the Socialist party of President François Hollande achieved electoral dominance in the National Assembly and Senate as well as the Elysée palace. Benoît Hamon won the January primary vote convincingly, defeating the former prime minister, Manuel Valls but he was completely rejected by the French electorate, attracting just 6.35% of the vote.
Finally, and most importantly, the French have a real choice in the May 7 runoff, as the two remaining candidates present stark alternatives for the future of the French Republic. From an American perspective, it looks a lot like globalist Hillary-Obama squaring off against nationalist Donald Trump.
Nowhere is this stark contrast between the two more apparent than their reactions to the latest act of terrorism on French soil. As reported by The Guardian, Macron, has described terrorism as an “imponderable problem” which will be “part of our daily lives for the years to come.”
In contrast to Macron, Le Pen had been highlighting the fact that crime and security had, in her view, been “completely absent” from the presidential campaign in a live debate just minutes before news of the Kalashnikov attack broke. “It’s a major subject that nobody has mentioned,” she complained. “We must take control of our national borders to know who is coming in. We must reorganize the intelligence services, reinforce the means at the disposal of police and gendarmes, and attack the evil at its roots — that’s to say the communitarianism and the development of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Comparing Macron vs. Le Pen
Macron, a former Goldman Sachs banker and economy minister under Hollande represents the status quo. Although he has successfully distanced himself from Hollande, he fervently believes in the EU. As the only openly Europhile candidate, he told his supporters: “We need Europe, my friends, so we will rebuild it. … I will rebuild a strong and balanced alliance, thanks to you, with Germany in order to give back Europe a real dynamic.”
Macron has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her generous policy to asylum seekers that has seen more than a million new arrivals since 2015. He has pledged to speed up the review process for asylum requests to France to a maximum of six months, including appeals.
He wants to keep open borders, backs the free market, and is calling for pro-business measures such as slashing corporation taxes. He is generally supportive of international trade deals and he backs the treaty with Canada. Macron also wants a three-year suspension of housing taxes for 80 percent of French households.
Macron is Obama resurrected and clothed in an expensive and elite French suit. He has the full support of the EU establishment, the French President and Prime Minister, as well as the pledged support of several prominent candidates. Finally, a senior French Muslim leader has called on the country’s nearly 5 million Muslims to “vote massively” to make Macron president.
In contrast, Le Pen condemns the EU insisting that she would not appear before a European Union flag in an interview with the TF1 television channel.
I want to be President of the French Republic, not of the European Commission. All the more so since I consider that the European Union has done a great deal of harm to our country and to our people, be it in economic matters, in social matters, or in the matter of the disappearance of borders. This will be my first measure: to restore national borders to the French, to regain mastery in order to know who is entering our country [in order] to fight against the danger of Islamist terrorism [and] migrants [who] come and hit us in the heart.
Le Pen wants to suspend immigration, introduce new measures to curb conservative Islam and deport radical Islamists. She would curtail policies that let migrants bring relatives to France, while also making it impossible for illegal migrants to secure residency status. Foreigners convicted on terror charges or any other crime would be automatically deported, and she would abolish a law that allows children with migrant parents who are born in France to eventually become French. She would also ban the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols such as Muslim head scarves and veils in public, having routinely warned against the “mortal danger that is fundamentalist Islam.”
Echoing the recent campaign of Donald Trump (if not the Trumpian reality), she is for France first and rejects globalization, vowing to protect French jobs and condemning liberal policies that have left many workers struggling. Le Pen would impose a 35% tax on goods by companies that move production outside France, and would penalize groups that hire foreign workers.
Both candidates see a need for more police. Macron wants to create 10,000 more police jobs, while Le Pen wants 21,000 more police and customs officials.
A snap Ipsos survey late on Sunday suggested that Macron, who’s aiming to be the country’s youngest head of state, would win by 62% to 38% for Le Pen.
But will either candidate be capable of carrying out their programs? Quite possibly not, because Macron has no MPs, and Marine Le Pen has only two. The new president must appoint a prime minister who can command a majority in the 577-seat National Assembly (the lower house of parliament). That could be a problem for either Macron or Le Pen, because the assembly is currently dominated by the Socialists (271 seats) and center-right Republicans (193). So to have any power to push through their proposals the next president will need their party to perform well in legislative elections on 11 and 18 June.
Then there is the judiciary to consider. A report by the leftwing BBC sums up the absurd situation facing French patriots in their courts better than any analysis I’ve seen:
A far-right French mayor has been fined 2,000 euros for inciting hatred, after declaring that there were too many Muslim children in his local schools. Robert Menard, mayor of the southern town of Beziers, is an ally of the anti-immigrant National Front party. On 1 September 2016, France’s first day back at school, he tweeted that he was witnessing the “great replacement.” The divisive term is used to describe the alleged eviction of France’s white Christian population by migrants.
On 5 September Menard said on LCI television: “In a class in the city centre of my town, 91% of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance.”
French law prohibits data based on people’s religious beliefs or ethnicity. Menard defended his comments, saying: “I just described the situation in my town. It is not a value judgement, it’s a fact. It’s what I can see.”
In addition to the fine, a Paris court awarded 1,000 euros (£0.85-£850; $1.1-$1,100) in court costs to anti-racist groups that had brought the case. The fine was higher than the 1,800 euros called for by the public prosecutor, who said Menard had “pointed the finger at kids, whom he describes as a weight on the national community.”
Finally there is also the media to consider. As we saw with Obama/Clinton vs. Trump, the mainstream media in France and abroad openly favor the liberals and show hostile contempt for conservatives. The account above by the BBC is obviously riddled with biased and pejorative phrasing. Here’s another sample of the BBC’s bias with respect to the two candidates.
“And yet somehow Emmanuel Macron read the zeitgeist. He found an untapped reservoir of support among the young, the disillusioned-but-optimistic, the anti-cynics. Through his energy, his youth, and his incomparable charm and articulacy, he has pulled off a political coup that will go down in the annals.”
Bernard Cazeneuve, the sitting Socialist prime minister, called Ms. Le Pen’s project “dangerous and sectarian” and said it would “impoverish, isolate and divide” the country. “It will inevitably lead to the end of Europe and of the euro, and, eventually, to France’s relegation,” he said. “The National Front cannot be the future of our country.”
From French mainstream media:
Macron : «Je veux être le président des patriotes face à la menace des nationalistes» (“I want to be the president of the patriots facing the threat of the nationalists”).
From the EU:
The EU’s unelected executive is quietly terrified that a Le Pen presidency could bring the European project to a screeching halt. “From the [European] Commission’s point of view, success for Marine Le Pen is a disaster and an existential threat to the European project,” an anonymous high-ranking official confessed in March 2017. “We can survive a Brexit, but not a Frexit.”
Like Trump, Le Pen must appeal directly to the people, bypassing a largely hostile media. Having watched both Trump and Le Pen campaign rallies I am struck by their similarities — hard-hitting direct speech before large enthusiastic crowds. In front of her cheering supporters, Le Pen declared that she embodies “the great alternative” for French voters. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between “patriots” and “wild deregulation” — warning of job losses overseas, mass migration straining resources at home and “the free circulation of terrorists.”
“The time has come to free the French people,” she said at her election day headquarters, adding that nothing short of “the survival of France” will be at stake in the presidential runoff.
As election results were being broadcast, French police detained 29 people in Paris after “anti-fascist” demonstrators became violent — hurling glass bottles and firecrackers and setting cars ablaze. The left-wing protesters said they were angry that far-right leader Marine Le Pen is advancing to the French presidential runoff. Like the antifa in the US, they prefer violence to voting. Six officers and three demonstrators were injured during the protests at the Place de la Bastille and several businesses sustained damage (Agence-France Presse).
The day after the election Macron came under fire for acting as if victory next month was already his. Macron’s visit to a chic Left Bank brasserie on Sunday night after his first round triumph handed ammunition to his opponents who described it as shallow, arrogant behavior. “They were patting themselves on the back with the whole celeb crew,” Le Pen remarked while visiting a wholesale market near Paris on Tuesday. “It shows that this arrogant cast thinks it’s already won and can do what it wants with the country.”
Surveying the dismal French political landscape following the election, James Delingpole writing for Breitbart news had this pessimistic comment:
While many French — and pretty much all the global commentariat — appear to have made up their minds that they have just dodged a bullet because they are not, after all, going to end up with a Presidency in the hands of the “far right”, they really have very little to celebrate. All France has done is to guarantee the election of a lame-duck caretaker president — Continuation Hollande — who will ensure that France’s ongoing decline will continue unabated. Its industries will stagnate; its social unrest will intensify; ever greater numbers of its citizenry will be murdered in homegrown terrorist attacks; its economy will tank; the country that was once arguably the most civilised and beautiful and sophisticated in all the world will descend ever deeper into chaos, ugliness, and despair.
Salut, President Macron. Adieu, la France.
Over the next two weeks “The great debate will finally take place,” Ms. Le Pen said on Twitter. “French citizens need to seize this historic opportunity.”
But will they?