What you need to know about the French presidential election

March 3, 2017

Populist Marine Le Pen is favorite to win the first round the French presidential election, but who she may meet in the second round is still unclear. 



The election favorites are Francois Fillon of the conservative Les Republicains, Benoit Hamon of the Socialist Party, Marine Le Pen of the far­right Front National and the independent candidate Emmanual Macron.


The first round of voting takes place on April 23 with the top two candidates then facing off in a decisive second round on May 7.


Current polls suggest that Marine Le Pen will become only the second Front National candidate after her father in 2002 to reach the run­ off. But who she would face is still up in the air in a race that has been hit by scandal.


Francois Fillon

The main conservative candidate began the campaign as clear favorite on a ticket of business­friendly reforms. But after he faced accusations of paying his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for a job she never did, his ratings plummeted


For a candidate promising to tackle corruption, the scandal hit hard. Fillon is under investigation and faces a real fight to save his candidacy after polls revealed a majority of voters want him to withdraw.


Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen's policy of un­ demonizing the right has made the National Front (FN) socially acceptable in mainstream society. Nonetheless, the party platforms are still at the far right end of the political spectrum.


Like Fillon however, Le Pen has also been hit by the fake jobs scandal. Police raided Front National offices to determine whether the party misused EU funding to pay staff for fictional jobs.


Although polls give her little chance of winning the second round of voting, no scenario is off the table after Brexit and Trump. The Fillon scandal could play into her hands and her supporters remain optimistic.


Benoit Hamon

The Socialist candidate surprised everyone by beating Manuel Valls to gain his party's candidacy. The former minister of education is considered to be a sharp critic of President Hollande and stands for the leftward shift of French Socialists.


Hamon wants to raise the minimum wage, abolish the liberalization of labor laws, legalize cannabis use and create 37,000 teaching jobs. Political commentators in France consider Hamon's stance to be utopian. Polls predict that he will garner around 8 percent support in the first round of the presidential elections.


Green party candidateYannick Jadot has said he will support Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon.


Emmanual Macron

The former investment banker entered politics under Francois Hollande. First, he served as the president's advisor and then he became minister of economic affairs. In 2016 he resigned as minister and left the Socialist party. He founded the party "En Marche!" and announced his candidacy for the presidency. That is why many representatives of the Socialist Party consider him to be a traitor.


However, in light of the left's weakness, the 39­year­old has become a beacon of hope for those who do not want to see the conservative Catholic Fillon or the right­wing Le Pen in the Elysee Palace. And now, even prominent Socialists, such as former presidential candidate Segolene Royal, stand behind him. Macron wants to reform the EU and revive French­German friendship and emphatically praises Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy.


Read more from the source article published in Deutsche Welle Feb. 24 2017

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