Apr 24th, 2022, 08:00 AM

Second Round of French Election Commences

By Mia Baccei
Image credit: Unsplash/Element5 Digital
What you need to know about Sunday's election and its implications.

The second round of elections in France commence today, giving French citizens the opportunity to decide the positioning of France on the world stage amid a war in Ukraine and rampant inflation rates globally. 

The French election process differs from that which many Americans know and understand. There is no electoral college in France; instead, a winner is chosen from a two round process. In the first round, which was held on April 10, the French "vote with the heart," meaning they vote for the candidate that suits their political beliefs rather than who they think has the best shot at winning. From there, the top two candidates go on to a second round of voting, and the candidate with a majority of the vote wins. 

The first round was a surprise to some. Though the two candidates to advance to the second round, incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen, were expected to do so, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in an extremely close third place. 

Debate Day in France: Macron, Le Pen to clash in eagerly anticipated TV event • FRANCE 24 English

Who is Emmanuel Macron?

As the incumbent, Macron has been the president of France for the past 5 years, and he takes a very central position on most issues. Formerly, he was a member of the socialist party, but when Macron announced his bid for the presidency in 2017, he started his own political movement called “En Marche!” which translates to “Forward!” 

Politically, Macron is slightly right of center, and has been described as a "double-liberal." On the one hand, he is socially liberal, believing in things that appeal to the left such as LGBT rights and gender equality. But he is also economically liberal, appealing to the right's value of loosened constraints on businesses. Perhaps the largest contrast he draws with opponents on the finge of both sides is his belief in the importance of international organizations like the European Union and NATO, and that France should be investing heavily in them.

Optically, he's struggled to seem approachable to the French masses. Because of his ties to investment banking and the French finance apparatus, he's been dubbed by some, "The President of the Rich." He also frequently appears condescending when describing policies, with half of viewers of the French presidential debate describing him as arrogant. 

To counteract this image, he claims to have made around 600 trips all around France to try and help the French lower their cost of living, and make sure people are able to get jobs. He plans to continue with this while also putting more emphasis on caring for families and caregivers.

For more information about Emmanuel Macron and his platform, you can visit his campaign website.  

French presidential election - the Debate: Macron touts record on jobs • FRANCE 24 English

Who is Marine Le Pen?

Like Macron, this isn't Le Pen's first time running at this level - she was his second-round challenger in 2017 as well. She is a member of the National Rally party, previously known as the National Front.

Le Pen is politically positioned on the far right, but after her defeat in 2017 has moved further to the center. She is starkly anti-immigrant, and focuses on nationalist and anti-globalization economic policy. She is broadly unsupportive of the EU, and has vowed for Paris to lead as the command of NATO if she wins. 

Her opposer on the right was Éric Zemmour, a radical conservative who has promoted the great replacement theory, which says that the decline of France as a world power has been linked to non-ethnic French immigration. After his loss in the first round, Zemmour endorsed Le Pen and encouraged his followers to vote for her in the second round. 

Le Pen also has concerns with the security and crime in France. She has associated the decline of these with recent mass immigration from the Middle East and Northern Africa. She has stated that Macron has divided the people, and she hopes to bring them back together. 

One of Le Pen's biggest optical weaknesses, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been her frequent admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

For more information about Marine Le Pen and her platform, you can visit her campaign website.  

The Debate: Le Pen confirms plan to ban Muslim headscarf in public • FRANCE 24 English

The bottom line is that this election will be critical in showing France's willingness to participate in an increasingly globalized system. A Macron victory would signal a relatively high willingness to continue investing in organizations like the EU and NATO; a Le Pen victory would signal just the opposite. 

Second round polling opens at 8AM and closes at 8PM on April 24th. French citizens can find their polling place at this website