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Players in 2017 French Election|Tejas Rao

Tejas Rao

Amidst a bit of controversy owing to the WikiLeaks expose, the French elections seem to have gathered up quite a storm. In this article, I examine the ideologies and political stances of every major candidate in the elections – holding these to a yardstick the proclaimed ideology would actually take, and comparing the stance to that of other parties in other constituencies.

  1. Marine Le Pen – National Front

Marine Le Pen fights to continue the string of far-right victories the world saw in 2016. She has been on record claiming the Brexit vote as the most important event since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and has further called President Trump’s election victory a stepping stone to the building of a new world.

Sticking to the label of right-wing parties, the National Front argues for a reduction in legal immigration and stronger citizenship laws. However, this stance does not appear to be different from the center-right and Mr. Francois Fillon, who desires a reduction in immigration to a minimum.

As with President Trump, Ms. Le Pen appears to characterize Islam as being equivalent to Islamist extremism. Consequently, she proposes to strip dual-nationality Muslims of their French citizenship. Mr. Fillon has reiterated these views. Therefore, the lines between center and right, especially on immigration, appear to be blurred. This means that both candidates are now fighting to secure the same category of votes, increasing the intensity of polling.

However, what makes the National Front a far-right party, is its stance on Law and Order. With the creation of several prison places, up to 40,000, and an increase in the police numbers within the country, Ms. Le Pen appears to stay true to extreme-right views on State control. This is consistent with the views of the parties the National Front has ties with: the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe), Belgium’s Flemish Interest (VB), Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Italian Northern League (LN).

  1. Francois Fillon – Les Republicains

Mr. Francois Fillon: in the news for the wrong reasons these days, but nevertheless, the center-right candidate of Les Republicains. While ‘center-right’ appears to be the broad category Mr. Fillon does fall in to, his policies are rather confusing.

While vowing to streamline the bloated French public sector by a half million jobs, he promises to abolish the long-standing 35 hour French work week. He proposes to extend the retirement age and scrap the wealth tax. All of which are consistent views.

However, a conflict arises with respect to policies on immigration. He is pro-EU, and was critical of Ms. Le Pen and her statements on Brexit. Surprisingly, though, he openly admits his dislike of Muslims, and promotes a white-supremacist, Christian French society. That’s not the end of similarities with Ms. Le Pen. He is desirous of a partnership with Russia to crush Islamic terrorism.

  1. Emmanuel Macron – En Marche!

As a former investment banker, Mr. Macron is perhaps the antithesis of present-day European politics. He is a centrist, a technocrat, and appallingly, pro-European. While not self-confessed, it is easy to spot Mr. Macron as a globalist. A stark contrast to Ms. Le Pen, he supports the EU, the UN and the NATO wholeheartedly, and is welcoming of Germany’s refugee policy.

Macron is young, and embraces both faces of liberalism: political and economic. He is committed to market reforms. His ideas are handicraft, selections of policies from both extremes, and proposes deregulation and a la carte systems offered for voters who work. As a centrist, he offers a moderate option to those unwilling to vote far-right or far-left.

Several media outlets have described Mr. Macron as ‘young and bold’. However, in my view, Macron represents, to the French, as Obama did in 2008. An opportunity for change. And a Macron victory would give the EU a chance to save itself.

  1. Benoit Hamon – Socialist Party

Hollande’s center-left successor won the Socialist Party primary, and the former education minister represents the left-wing flank of his party. A true left-winger, he supports reducing the French work week to 32 hours from its current 35, in addition to  a universal basic income of €750 ($800) a month for all citizens over 18.

To fund this, the Socialist Party proposes to legalize and tax marijuana, and a robot-tax. The robot-tax forces companies that use automation to replace human workers to pay a higher tax rate.

Hamon’s stance on immigration is tough to locate, but in public, he displays no resentment toward refugees, and has even been given a Muslim nickname by his far-right rivals: Bilal.

All of these policies, specifically the universal basic income, make Hamon comparable to Sanders. However, the lack of appeal, and the fact that he won the primary only a few weeks ago, makes his candidacy weak.

  1. Jean-Luc Melenchon

The far-left candidate has unified Marxist far-left movements behind him. As a far-left candidate, however, he has a lot in common with Ms. Le Pen – with an anti-globalization stance. His strongest stances, come on fiscal justice, where he is characteristically Marxist, and his adoption of technology, coupled with a rejection of nuclear power.

Melenchon’s views have failed to garner much appeal, and more recently, there is talk of Mr. Hamon and Mr. Melenchon clubbing forces, to give the French a stronger truly Left-aligned candidate.

I remain unconvinced by media houses’ attribution of ‘center’-left and ‘center’-right. To my mind, no candidate, barring Mr. Macron, appears to have a stance that is ideologically completely consistent with a particular tag. Voters in France, therefore, ought to be mindful before voting based on an ideological preference. The policies, as I’ve shown above, don’t stack up, and ideological voting could destroy the country, and Europe, as it stands today.

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