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France to choose between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in presidential election on May 7

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will advance to a second vote on May 7 to be France’s next president.

The Associated Press reports, “With Le Pen wanting France to leave the European Union, and Macron wanting even closer co-operation between the bloc’s 28 member states, the projected outcome [of the first round of voting on] Sunday means the presidential runoff would have undertones of a referendum on France’s EU membership.”

That article adds, “It also would represent a seismic shift in the French political landscape, with neither of the candidates from the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party – which have governed post-war France – making the runoff. Pollsters projected that conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon was trailing the two leading candidates and that Socialist Benoit Hamon was far behind.”

Macron is a former investment banker who was a member of the Socialist Party between 2006 and 2009. As the Minister of the Economy under prime minister Manuel Valls (who has been likened to Tony Blair), he pushed through business-friendly reforms. In August 2016 he resigned from that role to launch his bid to become president. He is running under the banner of En Marche!, a social liberal political party he founded.

Le Pen is the president of the right-wing National Front and has been a Member of European Parliament since 2004. She supports France leaving the European Union, has pledged to pull France out of NATO, seeks a moratorium on immigration, favours a ‘French first’ policy with regard to employment, welfare and accommodation, and advocates for a privileged partnership with Russia.

In today’s vote, Macron received 8,363,304 votes (23.8 per cent of the vote), while Le Pen received 7,571,933 votes (21.6 per cent of the vote).

In February, the French newspaper Le Monde reported, “In France, almost all candidates declared in the presidential election have already expressed opposition to the adoption [of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]. The only one that is openly supportive of it is Macron. [He] said in autumn during the Brussels Days that this treaty ‘objectively improves things in our trade relationship with Canada’. In October 2016, he said that CETA should be ratified exclusively at the European level and not before the 27 national parliaments.”

That same month, after the European Parliament narrowly voted in favour of CETA, Le Pen stated, “The CETA agreement was carefully hidden from citizens because none of you can justify it. You voted on it in private because debating in public, that’s something you hate. When citizens understand all of this they will never trust you again. That is why this is a terrible agreement. It will undermine thousands of jobs in Europe. Are you not ashamed? You’re giving away our rights to legislate and you’re robbing our citizens of the protection of their rights that they expect from their representatives.”

She added, “You’re making it possible for multinationals to attack member states so you make sure no new legislation will displease them. It’s a disastrous picture and if this treaty is voted for this will show once again to citizens that you cannot defend them. This is why it’s important for each country to find it’s sovereignty and determine its own future and the French public will have one possibility to change this fate and that will be the presidential elections. It is up to nations to negotiate their agreements and not a non-elected structure which defends its own interests and not the interests of its citizens.”

The Washington Post notes, “[Le Pen] took over the [National Front] in 2011 and quickly moved to distance it from its roots [and past association with Nazism]. She said she was the best ally of France’s Jews – because she would protect them against Muslim immigrants. She made a bid for left-behind union members, the core of France’s old left-wing alliance, by saying that she would protect their cherished social benefits by turning back the forces of globalization.”

That article adds, “Le Pen hates being called a far-right leader. She says if most French voters endorse her harsh anti-immigration plans, that means she is a centrist. …Le Pen has vowed to erect borders and bar immigration both from inside and outside Europe. She says she would rebuild French manufacturing, which has struggled under competition from cheaper foreign goods, by seeking to bring back the French franc. And she has listed a host of tactics she would use to make France less hospitable to its Muslim population, including the serving of pork in schools and the expulsion of any non-citizen who had been flagged for extra monitoring under France’s anti-terror regime.”

The next president of France will be sworn in by May 14.