The Next Election in France: A Turning Point

by Sonia Said
Image: Ilnur Kalimullin / Unsplash

France is a leading country in terms of cultural influence but its domestic issues are changing the country. In that perspective, the next elections will be key in understanding the views of the people. According to some experts, the two candidates expected to lead the pools are the same as in the last round of the 2017 presidential elections; Emmanuel Macron, centrist leader of La République en Marche and Marine LePen, leader of the far-right party; the National Rally.    

“…France already had high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The Economical Situation of the Country 

To better understand the projections of the next elections, it is necessary to take a deeper  look at the state of affairs in the country. At an international scale, France is a leading economy and is well-known all around the world for its strong diplomatic ties and the cultural influence it is exerting. But difficulties are actually easier to observe at a national scale. Since 2020, the country has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the virus has affected all countries throughout the world, France already had high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The current French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire shed light on the fact that the nation’s economy has shrunk by 11% in 2020, facing the “deepest recession since 1945.” In other words the economic crisis affecting France is undeniable. 

The Social Situation in the Country 

On top of those economical difficulties, the current social atmosphere is also tense. France, similar to numerous other European countries, has been concerned by the rise of nationalism and the growing impact of this ideology which creates a divide among the population. In the country, the consequences of the phenomenon have been only sporadically observable with, for instance, the promotion of products “made-in-France”, laws surrounding new migrants, encouraging the “laïcité” (or secularism) of the country or the criticisms against an “Islamo-leftism.”  

When the National Social Situation Spilled Over

But recently, the social situation in France created huge debates at an international scale. One of those debates concerned the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The latter became notorious in 2005, after representing the caricature of Muhammad, one of the Prophets in Islam, who theoritically, is not supposed to be represented. At that time, the representation led to the killing of some workers at the newspaper, and a mass movement “Je suis Charlie ” (or I am Charlie) was created by the population to condemn the killings. Recently, in 2020, the event resurfaced in the news when Samuel Paty, a school teacher, showed the caricature to his  students, and as a consequence, was killed. This unfortunate event led to a public declaration by  the president on 2nd October 2020, where he stated that “Islam was in crisis all over the world” and added, “ the problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic.” This statement is not valid according to the Islamic Law (which states that the laws of a country need to be respected as long as they do not deviate from the laws imposed by God). But more than that, the whole issue exasperated and enraged not only some Muslims in France, but also leaders and the population of the world, leading to a massive worldwide boycott of French products. Behind this incident, which may actually seem prosaic, lies the perspective of one part of the French population which was probably to some extent the reason behind Macron’s stance in this matter.      

The truth of the matter is that the sum of all these elements, and particularly the combined social and economic struggles has led to some amount of anger and fatigue among all the population. Now, taking into account that the role of a president is at all times difficult, the current president of the French Republique, Emmanuel Macron, has had to overcome very difficult circumstances so far in his mandate. If we combine the president’s multiple positions that have severely impacted his reputation and influence, regionally and globally, with the effects of the pandemic, all of these elements have deeply affected people’s perception of the government. Thus, here lies the need for change. 

The Second Need for Change?

Image: LeWeb14i / CC BY 2.0

Nonetheless, this need of change had already been felt during the last elections in 2007, where the party La France En Marche actually seemed to be able to be the change. During the last round of votes Macron’s party was opposed to Marine LePen’s far-right party, previously named the National Front. This inherently populist party known for its abusive, xenophobic, racist and islamophobic talks was already on the verge of winning the election. But this time, with the circumstances mentioned previously, the need for change may be even more intense, and may even lead to the win of the populist party.   

A Small Ray of Hope 

Recent regional polls have shown that none of these two candidates’ parties are leading. Therefore there might be a small ray of hope that could principally avoid the populist party taking over the power. But truth be told, most experts on the topic agree that regional elections are rarely a reflection of presidential elections. In other words, until the next elections in April 2022, and taking into consideration the current atmosphere, hope is still alive.

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