With the preliminary selection of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen as the France’s Presidential candidates for the money round, the election of 7 May, it would appear that the popular revolt against establishment politicians, if not practices, is continuing apace.
Neither of France’s mainstream, established parties—the Socialist Party, the party of outgoing (because with his popularity in the ditch, he chose not to stand for reelection) François Hollande, and Les Républicains (whose last elected President of France was Nicolas Sarkozy)—were able to pass a candidate into that second round, a first in the 5th Republic’s history. (This is not a pure result, though; the Républicains may have lost because voters rejected its candidate due to his personal scandals as much, or more, than they rejected the party’s establishment policies.)
Le Pen is the head of the National Front, a far right party that originally espoused virulently anti-Judaism (and may still; Le Pen’s public words are often at odds with the party’s founder, her father, but not always), is virulently anti-Islam and anti-immigration, and she wants to take France out of the eurozone and reestablish the franc. She’s also committed to holding a plebiscite on membership in the European Union.
Macron may be a centrist, but both it’s too early to tell—his party, En Marche! (On the March!), was newly created to support his candidacy. Macron resigned from the Socialist Party and from Hollande’s administration, where among other posts he was Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs, in order to run for the Presidency in his own right. He’s a staunch supporter of the EU and of the euro, and so he might look centrist, and he might look establishment.
However, Macron also wants to revise France’s labor laws to give more flexibility to business’ ability hire and fire (at the expense of the unions), to lengthen the work week, to raise the retirement age, and reduce both government employment and taxes among other non- if not anti-establishment positions.
In fine, French voters have said Non! to the establishment of any stripe, and now will choose between two candidates who are outside the mainstream, much less the establishment.
My prediction: Macron will be elected in a solid, if not landslide, final round. Le Pen and her National Front are too extremist and functionally too isolationist—not just from the international stage, but from anything not pure French—to suit most of France to get more than the roughly 22% of her first-round vote. Her ceiling, the National Front’s ceiling, seems to be in the range of 25%, but the electorate’s disgruntlement along with the terrorist attack just before this first round might give her a boost.
François Fillon, of Les Républicains and Sarkozy’s Prime Minister, got around 20% of this first round vote, and he has urged his supporters to vote for Macron, if only to block Le Pen; Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party candidate, recommended the same for his voters, some 6% of the first round vote. If Républicain and Socialist voters do that, it would seem to give Macron 50% of the votes right there.
Thus, France will stay in the EU and stick with the euro. There may or may not be hard fighting in the French Parliament over Macron’s economic reform policies, depending both on how well those politicians—primarily denizens of the establishment—have read their constituents’ disgruntlement with the way things are and on how sincere Macron is with his policy claims.
One last bit: with Le Pen wanting France out of the euro and the EU and Macron wanting France in both, the final round election will closely approximate Le Pen’s promised plebiscite, too.