Elections in France: The Rise of Populism and Its Dangers

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The French voters will go to the polls in one month and one of the candidates that is portrayed as a favorite is the far-right seasoned politician, Marine Le Pen. This occurs in the middle of an international political panorama in which the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have shown a worrying trend of populist stride. The elections in France will determine the fate of democracy, not only for that country but for the entire Europe.

Democracy in Danger?

In the light of a situation where people no longer trust institutions and politicians, social distress, and economic slowdown, Le Pen has capitalized the general dissatisfaction and has expanded the political support of the Front National, to such an extent that a minority party became a political force to beat. Her anti-establishment, anti-globalization and nationalist speech with an intelligently concealed xenophobia and islamophobia, hidden behind the cover of gender equality and the pillars of the Republic, have captured the emotions of many French that are desperate for solutions.

French elections
Source: opinionlab.opinion-way.com

The political skills of Ms. Le Pen have been helpful for her to emerge unscathed from financial scandals, unlike some of her contenders like François Fillon who has seen his numbers descend because of the investigation of a case of corruption directly related with him. Also, some of her thoughts can be recognized in other candidates’ silences and words. Fillon did not address to her on immigration in the debate and only aimed at her economic program. Even the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon appears to have certain correspondence with Le Pen’s views in geopolitics and Russia relations.
Le Pen and Macron were the absolute protagonists in the first TV debate and the viewers witnessed during the broadcast two totally opposing perspectives from the leading candidates. The dominant topics were those that Marine Le Pen has ceaselessly exploited during her campaign: immigration and secularism, and she did not hesitate to use them as a weapon against Macron who cleverly eluded her attacks and, as a result, improved his credibility.

Who Will Be The President?

For now, the results are unpredictable: while the polls show Ms. Le Pen as the leader of the first round with a very small advantage over Mr. Macron; the statistics are in favor of Macron for the decisive second round, winning easily with a large difference of votes. This doesn’t mean it is impossible for Le Pen to win the elections. The biggest challenge for Macron is convincing his hesitant supporters that, according to polls, are proximately half of them. The lack of solid votes for Macron could give room for the demagogy of Le Pen to work towards the consolidation of her victory.

Macron vs Le Pen
Macron vs Le Pen

The populism rise in France is being driven by the same concerns and motivations behind the Wilders’ and Trump’s voters, playing with the sentiments of a past where everything was better. The rise of the far-right could mean the end of Europe, and the beginning of an era of barriers, discrimination and isolation. The mitigation of this danger is the hands of voters, and the events of the upcoming weeks are crucial to determine the future of France.
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