Paris, France. April and May this year French voters will go to the polls to pick their new president, and the world will be watching to see just how far Trump-style populism has travelled. Given the surprise of Britain’s Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as US president, just what kind of person and politics France chooses will be of huge interest to many, not just those inside Europe.
The top five candidates in 2017’s French election are, in alphabetical order: Francois Fillon (Les Republicains), Benoit Hamon (Socialists), Marine Le Pen (Front National) and Emmanual Macron (Independent) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Unbowed France).
While there is no clear winner at this stage, with the recent shock Brexit results had in Britain and Donald Trump’s victory in the US, its all bets are off, but there is a frontrunner.
French elections are usually a two way race between the conservative Les Republicains (formerly the UMP) and the left-wing Socialist Party.Mr Macron has emerged in recent weeks as the clear favourite to win the second round runoff, but nothing is set in stone as Marine Le Pen gains ground daily.
Only one French presidential candidate has made it to the second round – Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002. His daughter Marine is virtually assured of doing so, current polls suggest, and her chances of winning the run-off remain highly likely.
Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party is in tatters after a disastrous term that has made him one of the least popular presidents in the country’s history. And with Les Republicain’s Francois Fillon smarting from the scandal over claims he paid his wife thousands of euros to do a phony job, his victory is no longer a foregone conclusion, with Le Pen now looking better daily.
Le Pen’s strategy appears to have paid off. Several polls have put Marine Le Pen in the lead, with speculation that the “Trump effect” could see millions of disillusioned voters pick her over Mr Fillon, the mainstream right-winger. French election experts, however, say it is highly likely she will win the second round of voting.