UPDATE 24/04/17: Pro-EU centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron & far-right, anti-EU leader Marine Le Pen are through to the final round of French presidential elections.
Official estimates put Macron at 23.9% of votes and Le Pen at 21.4%, making history as none of the mainstream parties make it to the second round.
Macron is expected to comfortably beat Le Pen in the final round, according to the most recent polls.
The final round takes place in two weeks. Europe is certain to be a central campaign issue. Le Pen wants to take France out of the EU, something that has proved unpopular with most French voters.
This year’s French presidential election could have serious consequences for Europe and the UK’s #brexit negotiations. The first round of voting takes place this Sunday, 23 April. Here’s a look at the contenders, their policies on the EU and their chances of winning.
Each of the 11 candidates can be found somewhere on the #frexit spectrum:
The Europhobes can be split into two categories: the single-digit hardliners who have nothing to lose, and the cautious but populist big players surfing the anti-EU wave. While they actively support #brexit in principle, their isolationist and chauvinistic policies will be of very little help to a post-brexit Britain. Albion will remain perfidious in their eyes, whether France follows in its footsteps or not.
François Asselineau (currently polling at less than 1%) bickers with counterpart Dupont-Aignan over the leftover scraps of the far right-wing electorate. He makes #frexit and NATO exit a cornerstone of his presidential plan, coupled with a lax stance on Russian diplomacy.
Jacques “ground control to Major Tom” Cheminade (less than 0.2% in the polls) uses his presidential candidacy as a means to sell his political pamphlets. He upholds #frexit as the only failsafe against the “failing currency” that is the euro but also dreams of spearheading Martian colonisation (I’m not joking).
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (3%) opts for blurrier pledges about border sovereignty and economic isolationism. To his credit, he does not cross the line into #frexit territory but proposes to withhold France’s contribution to the EU budget to help fund a substantial pension increase.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (19%), a former socialist who veered hard left, is gaining ground fast in recent polls, thanks to a firmer grasp on social media and holograms than the other candidates (again, I’m not joking). While his policy proposals have more to do with a benevolent strain of populism and constitutional overhaul, he advocates a withdrawal from European free trade agreements (FTAs) to safeguard French jobs.
The Reformist avoids an overtly anti-EU stance and is keen to use France’s key position within the European Union as leverage for reform. His interest in a post-Brexit Britain is quite limited. Granted, the EU could do with a bit of a shakeup, but Brexit is regarded as an unnecessary neo-colonial temper tantrum.
François Fillon (19%) is seen as a reasonable alternative to Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) party’s strident jingoism. He settles slightly to the left of Le Pen with restrictions on foreign labour benefits access and annual immigration quotas. Ideally, he’d “relaunch a European project” that is “more respectful of national sovereignty”.
The Europhiles uphold the European Union as critical to France’s clout on the world stage. They are likely to toe the EU’s red lines in the upcoming #brexit negotiations and advertise Paris as a new fin-tech hub, in a bid to reap the EU brain drain mana.
Benoît Hamon (8%) is the long-suffering socialist candidate. He suffers from Mélenchon’s strong social media presence and the legacy of Hollande’s calamitous presidency. He is keen to re-establish France as a big European player, advocating for increased energy and military cooperation.
(otherwise known as What?)
Seriously, we don’t know.
Communist candidate Natalie Arthaud (1%) adorns her political leaflets with sickle and hammer logos and asks a lot of questions about the state of the world. I have yet to find her answers.
The first round of voting takes place this Sunday, 23 April. The top two contenders will then go through to a final round of voting two weeks later on 7 May. You can learn more about the French election process in the video below.
So, who’s going to win?
Here’s what the polls are saying at the time of writing.
Remember, there are two rounds. This is how people say they will vote in the first round, according to IPSOS polling data:
Macron and Le Pen look set to enter the second round.
Harder to work out, but here’s who is currently predicted to win if you take into account the second round, based on a poll of all the current polls:
— Gergely Polner (@eurocrat) April 21, 2017
But as we know, polls can be wrong and don’t take into account the impact of last-minute events.
Is #frexit a real possibility?
It’s certainly not impossible. Read our article on the risk of #frexit to learn more.