Presidential election in France impactful in the U.S. and elsewhere

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

Incumbent candidate Emmanuel Macron won last weekend’s presidential election in France, despite facing significant opposition from the nation’s far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.

According to NPR, Macron is a political centrist and Le Pen is a right-wing populist. The candidates are split on many key issues, from the economy, to jobs to immigration.

Despite Macron’s victory, Le Pen’s conservative ideas and sentiments will continue to impact France and its positioning on the national stage.

“Though Macron’s pitch to voters of a globalized, economically liberal France at the head of a muscular European Union won out over Le Pen’s vision for a radical shift inward, the 41.45% of people who voted for her put the French far right closer to the presidency than ever before,” CNN said.

Clearly, Le Pen has widespread support in France. Her loss is far from proof of irrelevancy when put in context with her ideas, ideology, and use of familiar political tactics.

While Macron worked toward strengthening the European Union during his first term as president, Le Pen ran on a platform that would undermine the organization’s policies, according to Time.

Le Pen’s anti-E.U. sentiment comes at a pivotal global moment when Russia is still attempting to seize control in Ukraine.

Additionally, “in a moment when Europe has rallied like never before to confront Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, Le Pen’s ties to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have emerged as both a political vulnerability and potential threat to NATO and the united Western front against Moscow,” NBC News said.

Le Pen’s personal connections to Putin are accompanied by a broader link between her political ideology and the ideology perpetuated by the Russian government.

“Even if not ascendant at the moment, right-wing parties and politicians from Trump to Le Pen to Hungary’s Viktor Orban share some things that make them appealing to Putin: mistrust of NATO, support for fossil fuels, and skepticism of the multicultural Western democratic values,” NBC News said.

Le Pen’s views on immigration are especially concerning when it comes to a distrust of multiculturalism. The candidate called for a ban on Muslim headscarves and for substantial immigration restrictions, to the dismay of many, including in the U.S.

Le Pen’s push for such a discriminatory restriction is indicative of her personal and party connections.

According to NPR, “her party…was founded by Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and was once associated with Holocaust denialism and Islamophobia.”

Despite the existence of these ties, Le Pen distanced herself somewhat from the party’s former associations, allowing her to garner wider support.

“Some on the American left say the deficit hawks in the Democratic Party should note how Le Pen has found success by championing right-wing cultural views,” NBC News said.

Many American politicians and journalists note the similarities between Le Pen and former President Donald Trump’s campaign strategies.

According to NBC News, “Le Pen, like Trump and his allies, has railed against ‘le wokisme,’ a Francification of ‘wokeism,’ and stoked resentment against Macron and his ilk of cosmopolitan elites for allegedly selling out French culture and workers.”

Though Macron’s victory certainly reduces national and international fears of extreme conservatism taking hold in France, the impact of Le Pen’s popularity during the election will not go unnoticed in the months to come.

“Across France, Le Pen has tapped into a deep sense of abandonment felt by millions of French citizens, especially the white working-class,” according to Time.

Her persistence and success indicate that France — alongside the U.S. and a number of other nations — is finding inflammatory conservative policies on the rise in the midst of a delicate international situation.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Caption: Marine Le Pen lost France’s presidential election Apr. 24.

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