France Election: Macron wins over Le Pen

On May 7, 2017, France elected Emmanuel Macron as the new president of the country, edging out Marine Le Pen, his far-right counterpart, in a 66.1% to 33.9% defeat. This surprised the world, as Macron, the now youngest president at 39 years old, was not expected to win coming up to the election date. He began his campaign in April, called “En Marche!” It’s a socialist-liberalist party and rounded up many volunteers over the course of the campaign period. Members of the socialist party were allowed to be part of the movement if they supported Macron, so he might have used this strategy to rack up as many votes as possible. This seems similar to what the American voters tried to do; some people would vote Hillary Clinton simply because she “wasn’t Trump.” He was also described as a centrist, who was pro-business and supported the free market, and he also wanted to remain with the EU, which could have been a strong factor in the number of votes he received. Nobody thought Macron would defeat Le Pen by such a large margin. He understood the divide in the country, and wanted to do what he could to fix that, saying “I will do everything to make sure you never have reason again to vote for extremes”.

Marine Le Pen, who has been often called a sort of “Trump 2.0,” is a right wing nationalist and member of European Parliament, as well as the leader of the National Front (FN). She is known for opposing free trade, believes people should be self sufficient, and was interested in dropping the Euro for a national currency, as she claimed it was causing price raises. Although she is not a big fan of abortion, she has supported keeping it legal. Le Pen also opposes globalization of France and has made that clear in her political platform. She wanted to leave the EU for reasons related to these. One of Le Pen’s most controversial views was anti-multiculturalism, and many Muslims were scared of what could happen to them if Le Pen came into power. Laws could be in place to prevent illegal immigrants becoming legal residents.

Does this sound familiar? A far-right leader and an opponent who was favoured by the younger population? These differences split the socialists and the right wingers. It seemed people had seen what happened in the US, and were very unsure if they wanted Le Pen in office. However, there was a low voter turnout—the lowest in the last 40 years. Le Pen accepted the loss, but her movement has not stopped, and she plans to transform it and could probably bring it back to the surface in a few years. Macron now must do what he can to start the sluggish economy up again and maintain the trust of the French population; otherwise, Le Pen could return in a few years with a much bigger advantage.

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