With ninety-nine percent of votes counted in the first of two French presidential elections, centrist En Marche! candidate Emmanuel Macron has bested the National Front’s Marine Le Pen 23.9% to 21.43% .
Perhaps the biggest losers are the two political parties, representing the left and right, which have long dominated French politics. In fact, today’s results may represent a clear rejection of the establishment in favor of political newcomers. This is an interesting and perhaps unexpected twist to the contemporary French political scene, which apart from the occasional hiccup tends to favor the politically familiar, even the politically stagnant. Certainly, today’s election indicates French voters’ desire for change.
Although he has said that he is “neither of the Left or the Right,” 39-year-old former Rothschild banker Macron has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative as well as a social liberal. A pro-European Union, pro-immigrant centrist, Macron can be likened in some respects to a Bill Clinton or even an Angela Merkel. For her part, 48-year-old Le Pen has in many respects successfully distanced herself from her father’s unpopular political rhetoric, and has emerged as a pro-France, anti-European Union conservative candidate. In this respect, in some ways she is similar to candidate Donald Trump, although President Trump has not endorsed her.
Although reliable French polls suggest that Macron will win the second and final presidential election, France’s current atypical political environment, coupled with recent troubling incidents of Islamist terrorism, may continue to influence French voters to seriously consider Le Pen as they make their final selection for president May 7.