The recently concluded first round of the French elections have seen the traditional parties being pushed out of the mainstream as the National Front’s Ms. Marine Le Pen and Mr. Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! Movement (which was formed a year ago) moved forward to the second and final round of the French elections. It follows a trend of disillusionment of voters with the establishment that we have seen throughout the west in recent times and has seen the rise of populist leaders such as Mr. Boris Johnson or the incomparable Mr. Donald Trump.
But as both the French and international media attempts to start a hysteria around Marine Le Pen being the populist leader with fascist tendencies that will bring Europe to its knees and starts the campaign to “not let her win”, let’s have a look at Emmanuel Macron – the man who came out on top after the first rounds and who remains favourite to become the next president of France.
Emmanuel Macron formed the En Marche! Party only a year ago and has branded himself as an anti-establishment political outsider whose goal is to change the face of French politics and help the general people. But one quick look at his background shows that he is neither a political outsider nor an anti-establishment figure.
He has in fact been working in traditional French politics for quite a while – he was the Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital affairs from 2014 to 2016 and a member of President Francois Hollande’s socialist party during this time. He had also worked for the French ministry before, from 2004 to 2006, but left to join the private sector. He worked as an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque, which is about as anti-establishment as Mrs. Hillary Clinton herself.
There are in fact eerie similarities between the French and US presidential elections. On one side side stands the anti-globalization and anti-immigration (influencing her anti-Muslim rhetoric) candidate who has shown remarkable popularity in the “forgotten” communities and promises to bring the country back to its former glories. On the other side stands an opportunist candidate whose main selling point for the final round of the elections so far looks to be him NOT being his opposition candidate and very little about his actual history or policies.
Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie Le Pen, was the founder of the fringe party that has gained traction since she took the helm in 2011. Since its inception during the 1970s, the party gained notoriety for the racist and xenophobic leanings of its founder but after Marine took power she has worked hard to clean up the image of the party and kicked out her father from the party in 2014 to complete the transformation.
After leading the party to victory in the first round she has since stepped down as the leader of the party, a move made to attract voters who generally would like to avoid association with such a far right party. Her anti-eurozone and anti-immigrant stance has earned her notoriety from the mainstream media but amongst the people living in the small towns and villages where unemployment is at record levels, she remains the one candidate that is offering them a glimmer of hope. She has promised to turn the government’s focus to these areas once again and return to them prosperity. Again, it is quite difficult to ignore the similarities of the French elections and the 2016 US Presidential Elections.
The people with the most to lose at the end of the day remains the general people of France who are being asked to choose the worst of two evils, not the greatest or the worthiest of candidates. With the US elections in 2016 and the French in 2017 showing a clear trend, the hope is that these types of extreme political choices remain isolated incidents and not lead to a domino effect worldwide.