2017 French presidential election: voters choose between Macron, Le Pen in runoff

Photo from wikimedia. org

Photo from wikimedia. org

Since the establishment of the French Fifth Republic, candidates from the center-left Socialist Party and center-right political parties that preceded The Republicans have won the nation’s top office. After the first round of the 2017 French presidential election, however, neither party is in a position to win.

In a runoff election on May 7, French voters will choose either Emmanuel Macron of the upstart progressive movement, En Marche or Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front to lead the country.

“Well, this was a complete rejection of the political establishment,” said Frank Langfitt, an international correspondent for NPR in an April 24 broadcast of the Morning Edition. “The mainstream right and left wing parties have controlled the presidency since ’58, but they haven’t been able to solve France’s problems.

“There’s been chronic high unemployment here, political scandals. More recently, you know, you’ve seen a lot of industrial job loss because of global competition. Immigration’s also been an issue. So basically, what voters were saying last night was enough.”

More than 8.6 million voters cast ballots for Macron, who won the first round of the election with 24 percent. Meanwhile, more than 7.6 million voters turned out for Le Pen, giving her 21.3 percent.

According to an election analysis conducted by The New York Times, Le Pen succeeded with many voters in northern France as well as the country’s southern Mediterranean coast. Macron did well in western regions and urban centers like Bordeaux and Paris.

In her campaign for the presidency, Le Pen has been compared to U.S. President Donald Trump and his criticisms of globalist policies. She has specifically called for France to restrict immigration, abandon the euro, hold a referendum on European Union membership like the United Kingdom and ban Islamic head garments in public.

Macron, on the other hand, has campaigned to strengthen ties with the European Union and Eurozone nations. Domestically, he seeks to reform pension programs, cut corporate taxes, reduce budget deficits and invest 50 billion euros in a variety of public sector and green energy programs.

On May 3, the two candidates sparred with each other in a debate and outlined their plans for France.

“We are in the world,” said Macron, according to The New York Times. “France is not a closed country.”

Le Pen had a different view.

“I’m the candidate of that France that we love, who will protect our frontiers, who will protect us from savage globalization,” Le Pen said.

In head-to-head opinion polling since the beginning of April, 60 percent of voters have said they would vote for Macron over Le Pen. In the current global political climate, however, polls have not always been right.

Nationwide polling indicated U.K. citizens would vote “Remain” in the nation’s EU membership referendum last June. Similarly, pollsters believed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in November.

French voters will decide the next president on May 7, but there are parliamentary elections on the horizon. On June 11 and 18, French citizens will return to the ballot box to choose the 577 members of the National Assembly.