French elections: Macron seems to be cruising to victory
The Dollar Business Bureau
In tune with the current global trend, two unlikely choices for political leadership have emerged from the first round of French elections held on April 23, 2017. The traditional socialist and republican parties took a beating as Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron will battle out the final round on May 7, 2017.
While Emmanuel Macron, a new face on France's political scene, secured the maximum number of votes in the first round of French elections (23.8%); Marine Le Pen, the voice of rising protectionism, came second with 21.5% votes. Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon, representatives of the centre-right and socialist ideologies, traditionally at the forefront of politics in France, were trailing behind in the vote count.
The all-time low approval ratings of current President Francois Hollande has much to say about the sudden off-beat choice for political leadership. Striving for a change, the French have resorted to unconventional leaders with new ideas.
Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, contesting to become the youngest President of France at 39, is an independent centrist who has spearheaded a pro-EU campaign. His liberal agenda stresses a shift from coal to renewable power, and corporate tax cuts to secure economic edge.
Echoing popular rightist rhetoric, hardliner Marine Le Pen's party, if brought to power, will clamp down on immigration, restrict free trade, and kick-start France's exit from the EU. Having taken over the reins of National Front from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, she has reinvented the party's image in the minds of people.
She seems to have a stronger appeal and better prospects of winning the elections than her father, who was defeated in the second round of 2002 elections.
Although projections show that Macron will defeat Le Pen, she may overturn the popular verdict in her favour in the last minute. The unexpected cannot be ruled out as an likely outcome – something the world has learnt from the recent Brexit vote and the US elections.
However, Macron is likely to enjoy the support of other rivals (Republicans and Socialists) ousted in the first round. Both Fillon and Benoit Hamon came out in favour of Macron as the better choice for France's Head of State.
The rise of fringe parties and ideologies across the globe is being seen as a spin-off of widespread anger towards long-reigning seasoned parties. To sustain the new-found acceptance, these candidates must ride on the performance of their own policies, and not on the outrage targeted at the traditional establishment.