French vote: relief or alarm

2017 starts with an internationally interesting presidential election procedure. The citizens of France are called on 23rd April 2017 to cast their vote and determine who is going to be the president of the French Republic for the next 5 years.

The presidential elections have urged 3 main political figures to pour in the battle for the presidency: Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

francois-fillonStarting with Francois Fillon, he represents the centre-right cleavage. Mr. Fillon has been the Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012, during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy and has served as a Minister too. He has a reputation as a reformer and an honest man, who will transform the economy as well as the tax system under his liberal point of view. He is promising the cutting of public sector jobs (up to 0.5 million) and bureaucracy, the remove of the wealth tax as well as the abolition of the 35-hour work week. His policy reminds of Margaret Thatcher and thus he is criticized by a large portion of the population. However, his main focus on France’s Catholic roots puts him in a long tradition of French conservatism which has no real equivalent in Britain. Concerning his foreign policy, Mr. Fillon wants to deprive jihadists returning from the wars in Iraq and Syria of their French nationality and requires parents in receipt of social allowances agree to a “parental responsibility contract”, to tackle children’s absenteeism or behavior “disrespectful of the values of the [French] republic”. He also advocates the tightening of relations with Russia by lifting the EU sanctions and by helping the Syrian President defeat ISIS. Finally, what summarizes his view is this statement: “We have all the assets to be a modern, sovereign nation in the lead in Europe”.

The far-right sentiment is represented by Ms. Marine Le Pen and her political party, the  marine-le-pen-afpNational Front. Aiming to detoxify the image of the party, since taking over its leadership from her father in January 2011, Marine Le Pen is in the presidential elections tough but plausible favorite. Legal immigration is getting half less than it used to be per year (from 200.000 to 10.000), while illegal migration is tackled by deporting illegal migrants. As far as housing and jobs are concerned, Ms. Le Pen is giving high priority to French citizens and thus she is focusing on a national, independent state by rejecting the European Union as well as its currency, the euro. The increase in police powers and in prison places (40.000 new prison places) that Ms. Le Pen advocates, is the key to assure the protection and security of France. Concerning social issues, Marine Le Pen, a candidate known for her conservative Catholic roots, has run anti-gay marriage rallies, favouring the “traditional family”. She has openly spoken of the “true French” identity, demanding Muslims in France adopt values rooted in Christianity. One of the most significant statements, reflecting the political ideology that Marine Le Pen has, is the following: “French citizenship should be either inherited or merited”.

macron_bercy_pays_sipaWhile the centre-left seems to be fragmented, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old social-liberal, centrist candidate and former finance minister presents upward trend, showing he can “jump over” the Fillon-Le Pen duo. Being an independent candidate of change, Macron’s anti-system approach will either fragment (more) the left-wing vote or just drain votes away from Marine Le Pen. After founding “En Marche!”, his political organization, Emmanuel Macron tried to represent the French misrepresented centre voice that, according to him, France was not representing. Therefore, Internet is this candidate’s tool to build his political movement and reinvent French politics. Making business and working independently is of paramount importance for Mr. Macron and thus labor market reforms prevail  in his political agenda, aiming also to bolster the single currency union. Moreover, he proposes the creation of a euro zone budget to finance growth-oriented investments as well as to provide to struggling member states the  financial assistance they need. On EU affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Macron advocates the European Union’s preparadeness and readiness in order to achieve the most effective domestic political scrutiny. As he states, “There can be no success without Europe” and     “a roadmap for Europe” is needed with actions that states want to implement in areas like defense, security and fiscal governance. Macron’s political goal could be summarized in the following statement: “To be clear about the French momentum, we are accelerating”.

According to polls, Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen are likely to go up to the second round, while Emmanuel Macron is the alternative solution that might go things upside down. Of course, we should wait for the Socialist Party presidential primary that will be held at the 22nd and 29th of January 2017, nominating either Manuel Valls, Arnaud Montebourg or Jean-Luc Bennahmias, the top 3 likely-elected candidates of the primary.

S.Christofyllidis

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