Like last time in 2017, the presidential election in France is due to a duel between Emmanuel Macron Marine Le Pen. What is the difference between the two candidates? And does the result matter for Ireland?
In theory, they only have to vote once – if the lead candidate can get over 50 percent of the votes on the first day. But that never happens, and the second vote is a runoff between the two frontrunners.
For many voters, day two is all about picking who they like least. Most recently, in April 2017, it was newcomer Emmanuel Macron who took on Marine Le Pen.
The forthcoming second vote on Sunday April 24th is a repeat of that.
2. In summary, what happened in the first vote this week?
Outgoing President Emmanuel Macron, who says he and his Republic on the Move party are neither right nor left but are solely committed to modernizing France, has taken the lead with nearly 28 percent of the vote. Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Rally, finished second with just over 23 percent.
The far-left candidate, Jean Luc Melenchon of France Unbowed, finished a close third with nearly 22 percent. He did surprisingly well, arguing that he was just 400,000 votes short of making it into the second round ahead of Ms. Le Pen.
There were nine other candidates – none of whom came up with double-digit percentages. Some heavyweights actually did very poorly.
3. Is there a big difference between Macron and Le Pen?
Yes, the differences are vast and complete. Mr Macron, France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon when he was first elected in 2017, is now 44. He has a degree in business administration and was Minister of Finance under the French Socialists.
Mr Macron broke away to start his own movement, which is a centre-right party, much like the old progressive Democrats in Ireland. The focus is on low taxes with self-help and education to help people get out of welfare dependency.
Ms. Le Pen is a 53-year-old lawyer whose father, Jean Marie Le Pen, founded the Front National back in the 1970s. She has renamed the party to give it a softer touch – but maintained nationalist policies of minimizing EU influence and stemming migration.
4. How was this year’s campaign?
It was slow and restrained. But it clearly caught the imagination of voters when 75 per cent of them turned out to vote last Sunday – compared to 63 per cent turnout in Ireland’s last general election.
Mr Macron has used minimal campaigning, holding his first rally just eight days before the election. He engaged in international diplomacy surrounding the Ukraine war and became known as a “Putin whisperer” for his unsuccessful efforts at peace.
Ms Le Pen fought really well and kept her nerve when a similar far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, briefly stole the thunder from her. Focused on the cost of living and things like lowering the retirement age, she stylized herself as the “Champion of the Forever.”
We have learned that the old party bloc system in France has come to an end with the election results of the Gaullist and Socialist candidates. We also saw that French society was polarized between the extreme left and the extreme right – with both extremes combined receiving 53 percent of the vote.
5. What happens next?
It gets vicious. The losing candidates will decide whether to advise their followers to support which of the two.
The campaign will shift into higher gears, with Ms Le Pen described as a “Putinist” and Mr Macron as a “president for the rich”.
6. Does the result matter for Ireland?
Yes, and Micheál Martin is hoping for a Macron victory.
Mr Macron is very committed to greater EU cooperation and things like post-Covid economic development. Many – but not all – of his ideas fit Ireland.
Mrs. Le Pen as President would cause quarrels with Brussels every day, which would shake the European Union, of which France is a founding member.
She wants to cut France’s EU contribution, give priority to local companies when bidding for French public construction projects and give national law priority over EU law. These ideas violate the core values of the EU and the resulting instability would hurt the economies of all member states – including Ireland.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/what-a-marine-le-pen-win-would-mean-for-ireland-and-five-other-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-french-election-41542590.html What a Marine Le Pen win would mean for Ireland and five other things you need to know about the French election