Why the French election is such a big deal

Juliette Bretan 3 May 2017

Having just moved back to Cambridge after spending a few weeks at home in France, I realise how big of an impact the next French presidential election could and most probably will have on the rest of the world when French citizens vote to elect their next president this Sunday 7th May (day of the second round of the election).

After having managed to convince the majority of voters to take them through to the second round, extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are now in the process of rallying political parties and personalities to back their candidacy. Shortly after first-round candidate and head of the independent right-wing party ‘Debout la France’ Nicolas Dupont-Aignan announced that he would vote for Le Pen in the second round of the election, the populist candidate declared she would name him Head of the Government (i.e. First Minister) if she was elected on Sunday. Lately, Marine Le Pen has done her utmost to steer clear – or at least in appearance – of the anti-Semitic pro-Nazi ideology her father and former National Front president Jean-Marie Le Pen promoted and which contributed to the reputation of the party. However, the National Front’s newly tempered ideology is nothing less than a dangerous façade. A few days ago, the television show Quotidien, hosted by TV presenter Yann Barthès revealed that a National Front supporter and founder of a political party and society named ‘Génération Identitaire’ [Pro-Identity Generation] had recently opened a "patriotic" restaurant in Lille. Clientele requirements include: being French, white and most importantly, being an unconditional nationalist and defender of the “French identity”. The owner claims France should ban Muslims and even celebrates Charles Martel’s victory in 732 A-C, a battle during which the latter prevented France from being invaded by the Arabs in Poitiers.

Even if the latest poll gives Macron as the winner of the election with 61% of the vote, he hasn’t won yet. The 39-year-old has already succeeded in making left-wing and right-wing parties come together and promises to reunite all French citizens, whether they live in mainland France or in one of the 10 overseas departments, regions and local authorities, around republican laws and values. Macron also says he will pursue the fights engaged by the current government, including the one against terrorism, while contributing to rebuilding a united Europe. If Marine Le Pen is elected on Sunday, France will be as divided as ever and I do not think I am the only one to believe that this is all but what we need in such a delicate social context. On Sunday, I will be voting for Emmanuel Macron. French expats here in Cambridge, your proxy means more now than it probably ever will.