By Molly Ambler
With the French elections on the horizon, France could be the next country to face a political upheaval. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far right National Front Party has launched her bid for the presidency. She held a rally at Lyon in which she declared her want to return to the French Franc as well as pulling France out of NATO and promising a referendum on remaining in the EU.
In the rally Le Pen stated “what is at stake in this election … is whether France can still be a free nation.” Le Pen promised to protect French traditions and national character, most notably from immigrants. On this topic Le Pen made her views explicit “those who came to France came to find France, not to turn it into their country of origin” she said. “If that’s what they wanted they should’ve stayed in their country.”
The parallels between Le Pen and Trump are worrying. She has praised him on the action he has taken against immigration and his election to the US presidency “shows that people are taking their future back.”
However, she is not the only candidate in the elections. Emmanuel Macron has surged ahead in the polls amid his opponent and rival Francois Fillon becoming surrounded by scandal. The latest poll suggest that more than 20% of the French population plan to vote for Macron, but also found that 25% of people plan to vote for Le Pen setting up a showdown between the two.
The popularity of the centre-right candidate Francois Fillon plummeted as accusations were made that his Welsh wife has a fake job. Mr Fillon strongly denies the accusations: “I am being blamed for wanting my wife to be the first of my collaborators”, he told the nation. “There is nothing illegal to it.”
This is reflected in the polls with only 18.5% of the people planning to vote for him. Emmanuel Macron resigned as Francois Hollande’s economy minister in the summer, leaving the position with a fair degree of anonymity. However, he has emerged as a surprise candidate in this election forming a new grass roots movement called En Marche!
Macron is a former banker and comes from the left side of politics. He has vowed to unite people from all backgrounds being part of a “democratic revolution.” His critics on both sides of the political scale have wrongly predicted that his campaign would quickly run out of steam.
Mr Macron’s chances have risen as the Socialist party have chosen left-wing rebel Benoit Hamon as their candidate. Could this be another political upset in Europe? Only time will tell. The first round of voting takes place on the 23rd April 2017, with a second vote on the 7th of May if any candidate fails to get 50% of the vote. France looks to be in a precarious political position and will go into the coming months with a degree of uncertainty.