John Oliver on the French Elections | Youtube
A Consequential Choice for France—And an Uncertain One | The Economist
Marine Le Pen Leads Far-Right to Make France More French | The New York Times
Terror Attack Redefines French Presidential Race in Final Dash | Politico Europe
Macron Wants to Change France. But Will Voters Elect an Unknown? | The New York Times
Marine Le Pen’s Bait-and-Switch Foreign Policy | Foreign Policy
In a few hours, I will be heading up to Boston to vote in the most consequential election of my lifetime—the French presidential elections. As John Oliver caustically reminded us last week, this election is both hugely important and highly unpredictable. While the youthful centrist Emmanuel Macron currently enjoys a (very slight) advantage in the polls, he is closely trailed by the three other leading candidates; Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, Francois Fillon, an ethically compromised conservative, and Jean-Luc Melenthon, a far-left firebrand. Moreover, up to a third of French voters have declared that they are still undecided—which some dread means that they are simply reluctant to admit they intend to vote FN (Front National).
When The Economist, a publication renowned for its sober, tempered analysis, writes that, “seldom has a European democracy been so torn between progress and disaster,” it’s time to sit up and start paying attention. Gerard Araud, the outgoing French Ambassador to the United States, was not engaging in hyperbole when he suggested that the outcome of this election will determine the survival of the European project. Melenchon and Le Pen would be almost equally disastrous for France, NATO, and the EU. Meanwhile, Francois Fillon—a singularly uninspiring figure—has espoused an increasingly reactionary ideology, along with a disturbing tendency to parrot Vladimir Putin’s main talking points on global affairs.
A Macron victory, on the other hand, would be a resounding victory for the liberal international order. Preternaturally gifted and erudite, he has been the only major European politician—barring Angela Merkel—to articulate a robust countervailing ideology to the current wave of populism and nativism sweeping across the West. If he ends up making it through the first round, and then prevails on May 7th (the date of the second round), expect the cradle of the Enlightenment to once again become the center of gravity for western political liberalism. If not, we may well be catapulted into a new era of darkness. – Senior Fellow Iskander Rehman