Biggest Election of the Year: France Elects New President

Just another week in American politics: Congress barely meets the deadline to keep the government from shutting down by passing a $1.1 trillion budget [1], House Republicans finally pass their healthcare bill that will take away insurance for 24 million Americans and save money for the rich [2], and 45 is bent out of shape because Stephen Colbert reminded everyone of his love affair with Vladimir Putin [3]. But I don’t want to talk about any of that.

Remember when we had that little presidential election? It lasted like three years, it pissed everyone off to the point that most didn’t even vote, and the unqualified winner got millions of dollars of free press? Let’s just say it’s a lot different in France’s presidential election. They actually have rules that make the election process more fair and bearable.

For starters, the campaign length is one of the shortest in the world. Any citizen can run for president, as long as they secure 500 signatures from elected officials within a set three week period ending March 17th. From there, the first “official” week of campaigning begins April 10th leading up to the first round of voting only TWO weeks later. There are plenty of other rules to keep the process fair, including limited campaign donations, defined media coverage, and campaign ad rules [4].

The French voting process is separated into two rounds. Technically, if a candidate secures at least 50% of the votes in the first round, they win automatically. However, this system has been in place for over 50 years and no one has done it yet. This year the first round of voting took place on April 23rd. There were 11 candidates going into the first round, all scattered across the political spectrum and from various backgrounds. When the votes were tallied, the top two candidates moved on the run-off election on May 7th.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front, a far-right, nationalist party that is gaining popularity due to its anti-immigration rhetoric, took 21.53% of votes in the first round. Taking a majority with 23.75% and the front-runner going into the final round of voting, was Emmanuel Macron, a liberal centrist running with no political affiliation [5]. Macron has since gained the support of the top French parties, the Socialists and Republicans, mostly in opposition of Le Pen [6].

Emmanuel Macron’s political support is growing behind his independent movement En March (On the Move). The former investment banker has never been in an election before. He got his start after being appointed Economic Minister by soon-to-be former President François Hollande, to whom Macron was an economic adviser. Emmanuel Macron’s platform is based on economic reform (restructure the country’s pension system, reduce federal jobs, bring down corporate taxes, and curb the budget deficit), as well as strengthen ties to the EU and implement a public investment plan designed to improve the work force and promote renewable energy.

The other candidate in the election is Marine Le Pen. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, founded the National Front (FN) in 1972. Funny story about him, he is proudly racist and built his party on Holocaust denial and the forced removal of millions of (legal) foreigners [7]. Marine Le Pen has a legal background and went on to lead the legal department at the FN, and eventually the entire party. She was elected to Parliament in 2004 and continues to represent North-West France. Le Pen and the FN are playing to the concerns and frustrations of citizens that feel let down by liberal politicians. Under these ideas, Le Pen is pushing for “automatic” expulsion of illegal immigrants, cut legal immigration to 10,000 every year, the closing of mosques, and a ban on wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols like yamakas and hijabs [5]. She also wants to abandon the Euro and sever ties with the EU, as well as tax companies that relocate outside of France.

So why do we Americans care how these Frenchies vote? Seeing as we blew our own election and we are going to be dealing with that for years, we should recognize how important voting is. The two candidates are promising very different futures for France, Europe, and the world. Europe is in the midst of a political change after the Brexit vote, the ongoing displacement of millions of Middle Eastern refugees, and the rise and threat of terrorist attacks. France has seen some of the worst attacks in recent years and citizens are questioning their government after one of the most unpopular presidents in France’s history. Another reason? Russia has been linked to hacks targeting Emmanuel Macron the day before the election [8]. Obviously Russia doesn’t want him to win, shouldn’t that make the rest of us want him to?

Well, the French election process is so quick that it ended as I was writing this article. So here are the results: Emmanuel Macron has been elected France’s next president. If you thought 45’s victory was “historic” and “bigly,” Macron had an estimated 65% of votes. So after watching the unrest and unpredictability of the Brexit vote in the U.K., French voters decided it would be best to avoid a Frexit (wow, that sounds so funny). Emmanuel Macron is poised to make an impact on the economic and social reform that France desperately needs. Best of luck to you, sir, you can’t possibly be the worst president in the world right now.

Written By: CJ Wilcox (@CJWilcox7)

1: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/04/1-1-trillion-spending-bill-passes-congress-en-route-to-trump.html
3: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/05/03/colbert-had-a-lot-to-say-about-trump-and-putin-now-hes-silent-amid-firecolbert-backlash/?utm_term=.7fb4bb4a13b7
5: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38220690
7: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38321401

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by this writer are solely his own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Couch Guy Sports, affiliates, or other contributors. Yeah, I’m surprised I can get away with it too.

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