Macron’s presidential campaign in France is like no other. He has been called the “candidate of globalization,” and his opponents are all fighting to be the anti-globalist candidate. Leading up to the first round of voting on April 23rd, we will take a look at Macron’s rivals, who they are, and what their chances are for winning.
François Fillon is a prototypical French conservative and proud defender of the “Christian-Democratic values.” The former prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, he has been likened to Britain’s Margaret Thatcher for his economic views. An economically liberal free-marketeer who’s as harsh as possible on immigration and national security, his cozy relationships with the financial elite have earned him many critics.
However, he has been hit by a scandal that may very well torpedo his electoral chances. In January 2017, it was revealed that Fillon had employed family members as parliamentary aides for years, but had paid them some 900,000 euros from state coffers without providing evidence of actual work. Furthermore, the candidate is accused of using taxpayer money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family. He is under formal investigation for embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds — charges he has denied while promising to replace the French political elite.
But that’s not all: Fillon’s wife, who was herself employed as a parliamentary aide, has been accused of having done very little work for her 680,000 euro paycheck. The right-wing candidate’s rating took a huge hit in the polls, and he is now fighting to catch up with Macron and Le Pen. This scandal will likely mar Fillon’s reputation going into the second round of voting, as the French electorate has been accurate in their polling history.
In a surprising announcement this month, Fillon announced that he would seek immediate medical treatment for his wife to “alleviate suffering” as she battles cancer. In spite of this newfound sympathy, however, it is hard to see how he can recover from such a deep and self-inflicted crisis.
Elected as Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister in 2007, François Hollande inherited a dire economic situation that was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. Rather than follow in Sarkozy’s footsteps and implement reforms before it was too late, he continued to campaign on his “anti-austerity” platform of taxing the rich.
François Hollande is even more unpopular than his predecessor, perhaps due to his own sense of entitlement, or simply because he failed to honor promises on higher tax rates on corporations and individuals. His “tax-the-rich” policies have made him impopular amongst the business class in France, but it may be the only reason he is still in the race. Hollande himself announced that he was not seeking re-election, but due to lack of any serious challengers it seems like this was a necessary move to save face… and cling onto power until May 7th.
The newcomer to the scene, Marine Le Pen is the candidate of the far-right Front National Party. She has campaigned on taking France out of the European Union and ending immigration, but her chances are hampered by growing evidence that she also has cozy relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Le Pen has been accused of receiving money from Moscow, as well as allegedly being in the service of Russian interests. This would be awkward for the French, as they are both NATO members and EU partners, but it appears to have not stopped citizens from flocking to Le Pen’s cause. It remains to be seen whether citizens will vote outside their own economic interest in order to prevent Macron or Fillon from reaching office…
While these three candidates remain the top contenders, five others also will be competing in the first round of voting. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a veteran politician and former Trotskyite who left the French Communist Party in 2008 to join an alliance with other leftist groups. He’s received an exceptional amount of media coverage, both at home and abroad, due to his reform-oriented policies that are well.. bold, to say the least.
Mélenchon has promised a referendum on whether France should remain in the EU and has suggested leaving NATO, as well as offering sanctuary to Edward Snowden. He wants to legalize cannabis, nationalize energy companies EDF and GDF, lower the retirement age down to 60, and create a universal basic income that will be awarded to all French citizens.
François Asselineau is another fringe candidate whose chances of winning the election are slim — but he has produced some interesting policies nonetheless. Some of his ideas include renegotiating with Brussels in order to give France its sovereignty back and removing the country from the Eurozone.
Jean Lassalle is a populist liberal candidate who promises to create new jobs in the tourism sector, establish new judicial posts over the entire country, and lower taxes for small farmers.