What the French Elections Mean for the Rest of the World

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As France approaches its 2017 presidential elections tomorrow, the stakes are high. It could result in a continuation of the Western World’s trend toward nativist populism or could serve to curb the growing movement. Four major candidates will be on the ballot: the far-right populist Marine Le Pen, the center-right Francois Fillon, the center-left Emmanuel Macron, and the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon. While France will be most impacted, Marine Le Pen’s stature as a symbol of the populist movement in Europe makes the French election globally significant.

Marine Le Pen’s rise in popularity as the firebrand leader of the far-right National Front has resembled Donald Trump’s unprecedented ascension to the oval office. Both have exploited the growing fear of terrorism by promising to lessen the influx of immigrants from Islamic countries, and both have gained considerable traction for these platforms. Donald Trump’s scorn for NAFTA, the TPP, and even the United Nations can be likened to Marine Le Pen’s vehement objection to economic globalization. She sees a diversifying Europe as a result of globalism and a threat to France’s values: At a rally in Marseille on April 20, she unified her loyal base with promises to impose a stoppage on immigration. She claimed that “more and more [immigrants] are coming from the third world, taking advantage of our benefits”.

Her message has been well-received by the increasingly Islamophobic climate in France. Per the New York Times, a French nurse called Islam “absolutely frightful” and compared it to “a cult”. A poll conducted by the Chatham House think tank found that 61% of those polled believed that “all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped”. Only Poland, Belgium, and Hungary, according to the poll, have more anti-Muslim sentiment. Le Pen and her supporters’ reactionary stance on terrorism represents an issue that continues to pervade in Europe, and it foreshadows a potentially isolationist future for France. If Le Pen wins, her presidency will test the resilience of the French system to radical change. If she loses, her nationalist platform will remain out of the mainstream and will only exist in a grassroots form.

Emmanuel Macron is Marine Le Pen’s biggest competitor, and like Le Pen, his appeal has derived from his unorthodox background. At thirty-nine-years-old, Macron’s political aspirations are apparent. Although dismissed by some on the establishment as futile and impractical, Macron’s reform-based platform has gathered immense support from the right and the left. But while he deviates from the unpopular policies of the socialist party’s Francois Hollande, a Macron presidency would not alter the sociopolitical landscape of France and Europe as much as Le Pen would. The latter has been a major contributor in Europe’s slow shift toward nationalism, and as her platform has been fixated on immigration, Le Pen’s win could galvanize other rank-and-file western nationalists to continue the trend. This would in turn counteract the European Union’s efforts to alleviate the refugee crisis, which involve encouraging member states to grant asylum to refugees.

The fate of this far-right populist trend, which vilifies Islam, shelters itself from pressing global issues, and spurns international cooperation, could be decided by tomorrow’s election. It has come out of the shadows and into the political limelight, but whether it will prevail as a mainstream view will be known tomorrow.

The West vs. All (and inherently anti-Muslim) attitude of Le Pen and Trump’s populism will only exacerbate the lingering racial and ethnic divisions of a post-imperial world. Instead of trying to combat an inevitable reality with cultural nationalism, developed countries must accept this multicultural future with tolerance and openness.

Sourced from:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/22/politics/paris-election-macron-le-pen-trump-obama/

https://www.thelocal.fr/20170420/why-we-are-voting-marine-le-pen-for-french-president

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/world/europe/marine-le-pens-anti-islam-message-gains-influence-in-france.html?_r=0

http://www.politico.eu/article/marine-le-pen-globalization-campaign-launch-french-politics-news-lyon-islam/

https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/what-do-europeans-think-about-muslim-immigration

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/emmanuel_macron

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/europe/emmanuel-macron-french-election/

Featured Image: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/763274/Marine-Le-Pen-Emmanuel-Macron-French-presidential-elections-National-Front

About the author

Matt Walsh is a VI Form day student from Southborough, Massachusetts. He leads Openly Secular, plays trumpet and French horn, and leads the young Democrats club. His academic interests include public policy, political science, and chemistry, and he plays baseball and runs cross country. In his free time, he curates Spotify playlists and pets his dog, Portia. Matt hopes that The Parkman Post can be a hub for intellectual thought, ideological diversity and meaningful debate.

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