France voted this week to reject their mainstream parties in favor of outside candidates. Sound familiar? This is only the latest case of the anti-establishment fever that had previously spread from the United Kingdom to the United States. Now, that fever has traveled back to the European continent.
The only candidates remaining in France’s election are far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, a centrist. Macron favors a lower corporate tax rate, while bolstering ties to the Eurozone and investing in renewable energy. Election experts favor Macron for the moment, as he earned the endorsements of current French President Francois Hollande and the defeated candidates, Fillon and Mélenchon. Macron, if he wins, would be the youngest person elected to the office at 39 years old.
Le Pen is running on a Nationalist Populist platform. She’s called for protections of French sovereignty and an end to globalization. She would also close extremist mosques and set a fixed retirement age of 60. Macron countered this by speaking “in vague terms about how he stood for French ‘patriotism’ rather than ‘anti-European nationalism.'”
You can find pieces of their campaign platforms here.
Francois Fillon, the only conservative candidate, failed to move forward to the second round of elections after the weekend’s vote. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is about as far left as you can get, and he too failed to move forward.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this is just like the others. 2016 hasn’t really ended yet. The right-wing nationalist will defeat the more traditional candidate.
However, notable pollster Nate Silver urges caution against such thinking. France is a fundamentally different situation than the U.S. presidential election. There is no Electoral College. Whoever gets the most votes, wins.
On top of that, America’s voter demographics are remarkably different in Europe. While most of the U.S. population is center-right, European right-wing and nationalist parties are not as strong. Moreover, they don’t over-perform their polls like Trump did in 2016.
Regardless of whether Le Pen or Macron wins, however, one thing is clear: France will be charting a very different course moving forward.