A Foreign View on 2017 French Presidential Elections

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Allegra Knox

This image was taken from alamy.com

Jess Schot, ASPire Staff Writer

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By Jess Schot

Aspire Staff Writer

During the months leading up to November 8th, 2016, it seemed that most anyone and everyone had an opinion on the American elections. Given the importance of the country’s role in the world, it is not surprising that both  foreigners and Americans followed the French elections of May 2017 on the edge of their seats.

The French elections carried the same kind of significance throughout Europe; whether the coming years hold the dismantling of the EU, right-wing populism, or central governments holding on by threads to the Europe we’ve known for the past decades, many foreigners believed that the French elections would do much to defog the window looking to the future.

When asked which candidate they supported, an overwhelming amount of tourists said they would vote Macron. However, their hypothetical votes lay more in their support against Le Pen, rather than actual beliefs that a Macron presidency would benefit France.

Many cited Le Pen’s right-wing extremism as reasons not to vote for the Front National; as described by Lia Eddy from New York, “When I see Le Pen, I see alt-right, populist, very anti-other, and conservative.” Many seemed to share the same sentiments, Kathleen Sulliban (51) from Canada said that she “would vote for Macron, because Le Pen is far too extreme. [Le Pen] reminds me of Donald Trump and we’ve seen what that looks like and I don’t go for extremism at all.”

Indeed like Sulliban, many drew parallels between the French elections and the American one in early November. Frederick Oliveira (41) from Portugal described Le Pen as a radical and noted that “it’s a new way, it’s a new trend in America and Europe. It’s a reflection of the new kind of thinks that the population has.”

Others drew on the polarisation of the parties as a similarity, Sulliban noted that “it reminds me of the United States where the candidates are very extreme and their views are more polarised.” Spencer Cherry (36) from New York shared this view, “I see parallel to the US elections. In a sort of mainstream, slightly-moderate candidate against someone who’s a little more reactionary.”

With almost half of French voters supporting anti-EU candidates in the first round, as cited by the Economist, Le Pen’s criticism of the EU was a grand topic of discussion. For the most part, a lack of the EU as we know it today was a point of worry and mourn.

Jurgen Preugschas (68) from Canada said “they [the European Union] have a model that works relatively well, for all it’s flaws, and it has flaws, but it works well and it would be sad to pull it all apart. I think that history has shown that being divided in little countries isn’t a good choice.”

Yet, Kathy Safranek (48) from Nebraska expressed a directly opposing view stating that she thought that leaving the EU “would make travelling a little more difficult. But I think that smaller is better.”

More than 25% of French voters abstained from voting, as stated by the Telegraph, portraying a widespread discontent in the two candidates. When asked on their thoughts about those that abstained or voted white, views were divided. Some, like Eddy, believe that “to not vote, is not exercising your rights that have been fought [for] over a very long period of time… It’s the most important time to be voting. There’s a lot of changes happening in the world, we need to be participating in what’s happening.”

Yet, others like Frederick Oliveira (41) from Portugal admired those who chose to abstain, stating “that they are also smart because they don’t see their ideas well-represented in both candidates and they don’t want to vote and I agree with them because if I don’t like one of either, I don’t have to vote.” When further questioned about those that believe that abstaining is giving a vote to Le Pen, Oliveira responded with, “No, that’s people that are making afraid other people because if I don’t vote, I’m not giving my vote neither to Le Pen or neither to Macron.”

Macron will be the youngest president France has ever had, causing some people to call into question his capability in governing. Fely Puso (64) from the Philippines said otherwise, “Young is not very important. If you want to grow your government, I think it’s not because of the age.” Entering the Macron era, perhaps it is best to hold to Jurgen Preugschas’s beliefs in an optimistic future, who believed that a Le Pen presidency would have “represent[ed] the past, rather than the future.”

“For [Marine le Pen] to win would be another drop in the bucket to possible war and a possible change in the world order.”

 

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