1. France Presidential election: Candidates, voting system, issues, EU impact and everything you need to know, explained

France Presidential election: Candidates, voting system, issues, EU impact and everything you need to know, explained

France is going into the elections to select its new president on April 23, which will be followed by another round on May 7. Much like the US president, the French President is elected directly be the people.

By: | Updated: April 24, 2017 10:51 AM
France uses a two-round system, popularly known as the second ballot to select the person who will occupy the Elysee Palace.(Reuters)

France is going into the elections to select its new president on April 23, which will be followed by another round on May 7. Much like the US president, the French President is elected directly by the people. France uses a two-round system, popularly known as the second ballot to select the person who will occupy the Elysee Palace. This vote is of huge significance and will be closely watched all over the world, mainly because of two reasons – Donald Trump and Brexit. The President of France holds a lot of power, even in the presence of a Prime Minister and Parliament. The current President has had to deal with many terrorist attacks, a controversy-ridden private life and high unemployment rates. His party is in tatters, and he is highly unpopular in the country right now, despite having won the mandate with elan last time around and this has forced him to decline the candidacy this time.

Meanwhile, this year’s election has witnessed major other issues emerging including political corruption and personal integrity. From embezzlement scandals to questions raised on abuse of powerful positions in the European parliament, this French election has been mired in multitudinous controversies. This has lead to a neck to neck fight between several candidates, which has also kept plenty of voters confused or undecided, according to several opinion polls. It is not purple prose if one says that the real issues in the French elections will decide the identity of France as well as the future of Europe. The most popular candidate is Marin Le Pen who has been known for her xenophobic stand, and she will be facing tough competition from a newcomer Emmanuel Macron, a banker who has never held an elected office. Still, Macron, who is making his debut, has managed to reach the top of the table, there are two populists leaders already present- a far-rightist and a far-leftist. Interestingly another traditionalist who made it into the list has found himself hit by various scandals. The difference among the candidates itself is a depiction of the profound uncertainty of France’s future.

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How does the French voting system work? How will the results be announced?

In the absence of any candidate winning by an absolute majority (over 50 percent) in the first round which is being held now, the top two finishers will compete in the second run on May 7 – where the winner will be decided according to a majority. There will be a debate on national television between the two finalists on May 3. Whoever wins on May 7th, will take to the office on May 14.

Ever since the direct popular voting system started in the 1960s, no candidate has ever won it in the first round. Most of the voting is through a paper ballot. Interestingly, media exposure is equally enforced on all as well as there is a limit on campaign spending. This year there is an extremely close contest between at least four candidates, hence the poll results might get announced a bit later than usual. The results will first come on the official website of French Interior Ministry.

Who are the candidates? Who is the favourite to win?

The recent polls suggest that two candidates to be running close at the front, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far rightist Marine Le Pen. A lot of ink has been spilled over the probability that Le Pen, on a wave of populism, might ride to the Elysee Palace. But given Macron’s new-found fame experts have suggested that if this close fight ends up going to the runoffs on May 7, he will simply ride over her. Meanwhile, there is a chance that Jean-Luc Melenchon, an anti-capitalist firebrand or Francois Fillion, a Margaret Thatcherite might make wild card entries into the race.

Major candidates and respective parties: Marine Le Pen – National Front | Emmanuel Macron – En Marche! | Francois Fillon – The Republicans | Jean-Luc Melenchon – Unsubmissive France | Benoit Hamon – Socialist Party

Minor candidates and respective parties: Nathalie Arthaud – Lutte Ouvriere | Nicolas Dupont-Aignan – Debout la France | Jacques Cheminade – Solidarity and Progress | Francois Asselineau – Popular Republican Union | Philippe Poutou – New Anticapitalist Party | Jean Lassalle – Resistons!

What do people expect from the next president?

According to reports, there are more than 45 million voters in France. The French are expecting the new person to take better national safety measures, upgrade its economy, monitor a social safety net and revamp the labour market.

How will it affect France, the Europen Union, and the world?

France is a nuclear power, the world’s sixth largest economy and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also a very old US ally. France is also reportedly the world’s most visited nation. It is considered an epitome of democracy ever since the French Revolution, and decisions on foreign policies regarding friendship with Russia and towards the European Union can vastly affect the future. Following Britain’s exit from the EU, there has been a widespread debate on “Frexit” too. Le Pen and Melenchon, for variedly different reasons, are in favour of a renegotiations regarding the position of the country in the Union. If such talks fail, France may see a referendum on the issue. There is reportedly discontent in France regarding globalisation and immigration, which has been highlighted even more since the Presidential polls in the US when Donald Trump got elected. That event also boosted Le Pen’s chances, as her party, National Front witnessed renewed confidence. But she too has smartly managed to distance herself from Trump since the Syrian airstrikes by the US. Le Pen has been known for her hard stance on immigration and has garnered a lot of eyeballs because of her statements regarding France losing its identity. For her, France is for the French. Even Melenchon wants to pull France out of the EU, Euro currency zone, and maybe even the NATO, which essentially indicates the European future and trans-Atlantic alliance too. Meanwhile, Macron is the best for a pro-EU leader. He is a new guy in the movement, who believes in the free flow of trade, trusts in globalisation and the bloc.

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