In recent months, the world has been swept by a populist/nationalist attitude. In June of 2016, the United Kingdom left the European Union, and 3 months later, Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States. With these two events in mind, many people are wondering if this trend will continue as the French presidential election draws closer. It will determine if the previously mentioned attitude of populism/nationalism will go on, or simmer out. So where do the candidates stand?
Emmanuel Macron – En Marche!
If elected, Macron will be the youngest president France has had at 39 years old. He was virtually unknown – a political outsider – before being appointed economy minister in 2014. He served in that position for two years before breaking away from the incumbent President Francois Hollande’s socialist government to form his own political movement. He is a self-proclaimed centrist.
On economy: Macron has advocated business friendly economic policies that would unwind some of France’s strict labor laws, such as the 35-hour work week.
On immigration: Macron opposes any immigration quotas, but has called for the EU to strengthen its external borders and formulate an immigration policy.
On EU/NATO: Macron supports France’s membership in these groups.
Marine Le Pen – Front National
The litmus test of this global populism has arrived in the form of Le Pen, as her positions are extremely comparable to that of Donald Trump’s. Her victory would solidify a worldwide rejection of globalization.
On economy: Le Pen despises globalization. She supports dropping the euro (and returning to the franc) and has expressed support for protectionist policies to help France’s economy.
On immigration: Nothing has caused a stir like Le Pen’s stance on immigration and radical Islamic terrorism. She has proposed allowing only 10,000 immigrants into France per year, but not after completely suspending immigration for some time. She has increasingly opposed Islamic immigration specifically as a means to combat the issue of terrorism, which has led to accusations of Islamophobia.
On EU/NATO: Le Pen supports withdrawing from both NATO and the EU.
Francois Fillon – Les Republicains
Fillon has spent 30 years in French politics, serving as the labor minister, education minister, and prime minister of France throughout his career. He has fallen behind in polls due to an ongoing money scandal.
On economy: Although his party claims to be “center-right”, Fillon’s economic stances are more reminiscent of someone further on the right. He has called for cuts to public spending and wants to abolish France’s 35-hour work week. He has also expressed support for slashing thousands of public sector jobs.
On immigration: Fillon has taken a calmer approach to immigration, calling only for annual quotas to restrict the number of migrants. “We have six million unemployed and nearly nine million poor people. Immigration must be firmly controlled and reduced to a strict minimum”, he said.
On EU/NATO: Fillon wants to maintain France’s membership in both groups. He has said he is prepared to take on European institutions that oppose his immigration policies.
Benoit Hamon – Parti socialiste
As the name suggests, Benoit Hamon is the candidate of the Socialist party. He was the education minister of the incumbent (also Socialist) Hollande, but quit because President Hollande’s economic policies were only moderately left wing.
On economy: Hamon has called for altering France’s heavily criticised 35-hour work week. Instead of allowing workers to negotiate with their employers and work at a rate they see fit (and increase GDP), Hamon believes the work week should actually be decreased to 32 hours. Even more hilarious is his hope to establish a “universal income” of 750 euros ($815) for all citizens.
On immigration: Hamon has called for speeding up the asylum process and emphasizes integration. He wants to create a “humanitarian visa” for refugees.
On EU/NATO: Hamon is an ardent supporter of both groups.
Jean-Luc Melenchon – La France insoumise
Melenchon broke away from the Socialist party after 35 years to create another party in 2008. He ran in 2012 and lost, and so his current bid for the presidency is backed by a movement: La France Insoumise, or “Unsubmissive France.” Some of his success can be attributed to the previously mentioned populism.
On economy: Melenchon, like Hamon, supports shortening the 35-hour work week to 32 hours. He wants to increase public spending, and will pay for it through a 100 (yes, 100) percent tax on people earning more than the equivalent of 429,000 USD.
On immigration: Melenchon has offered no alternative to France’s current immigration policy.
On EU/NATO: Melenchon wants France out of NATO and is adamant about renegotiating certain treaties with the EU.
France’s election will be held tomorrow April 23rd. The two highest percentage candidates will then face off against each other in a second election on May 7th and the winner will be the new French president.