A campaign season perplexing enough to rival the Clinton-Trump debacle will reach a turning point next weekend after the first round of France’s presidential election. In the event that no candidate wins a majority, an election between the top two contenders will be held in May. Anti-immigration populist leader of the Front National Marine Le Pen is expected to face off with pro-European liberal Emmanuel Macron.
What are the implications of Le Pen’s ultimate victory? It doesn’t take a political scientist to notice the wave of populism that has set the Western world ablaze, catalyzed by Brexit and Trump’s election. Although she appeared to drag her feet in fully endorsing Trump, Le Pen shares many of the same views on policy as the US president. Proudly known as “Madame Frexit,” the FN candidate vows to hold referendums over France’s membership in the EU and eurozone. She also aims to crackdown on immigration (both legal and illegal), proposes allocation of public resources to French natives first before “foreigners,” and wholeheartedly pushes for protectionist economic policy.
More notable is her success in reforming the toxic image of the FN as an extreme-right party for predominantly male racists, Holocaust deniers and xenophobes. As leader of the party, Le Pen publicly supports civil union between same-sex couples (in contrast to the party’s prior opposition) as well as unconditional abortion. Whaddya know, she even identifies as a quasi-feminist. But the troubling aspects of her possible presidency concern immigration policy in France and disruption to the liberal world order consecrated by the EU and NATO.
Fortunately, France has its own system of checks and balances; analysts foresee that Le Pen will have difficulty securing support from Parliament to even hold referendums on the EU or eurozone, and it’s been acknowledged that favoritism with regard to public services is highly unconstitutional. Beneficial only to French nativists and their populist counterparts elsewhere, Le Pen’s election would be a symbolic detriment to immigrants in France and the rest of the world as a whole.
By: Frances Lai