The French Election: How it Affects You

By Will Cohen

On April 23rd, the first round of elections took place in France. Two candidates came out on top: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. Marine Le Pen is a member of the National Front, a far right French political party. Her political standings are similar to Donald Trump’s. Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, is a member of the En Marche party, a party that he created in 2016. It is best described as being socially-liberal, but centrist. Before that, from 2006 to 2009, Macron was a member of the Socialist Party, which is a very large democratic-like party in France. Although this is all happening 3,500 miles over the Atlantic Ocean, the outcome of the French election is extremely relevant to everyone, especially Americans considering the strong diplomatic relations we share with France. According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. works with France on a wide variety of issues, including the United Nations, counter terrorism, and NATO. Le Pen has openly stated that she would encourage France to leave NATO if she had become president, which may have fed into Trump’s criticism about NATO for the United States. France is one of the largest contributors to NATO, and their absence would have a large scale impact. Le Pen has also stated that she is “against the policy which would promote the entry of immigrants in Europe, which cannot accept them . . .  this tsunami of migrants should be limited.” While America is also facing debates about immigration, France limiting, or even rejecting immigrants, will play a critical role in future immigration regulation in the U.S. Her adversary, Emmanuel Macron, does not want to ban immigration into the country, but rather implement programs in France that will help immigrants assimilate into France’s culture. He has also called for an extra 5,000 guards on the borders of France to help regulate immigration.

Knowing this, France held the final round of elections on Sunday May 7th, in which Macron came out on top. This decision will affect Americans in numerous ways. For example, Macron has publicly said that he wants to keep France in NATO and for the country to play an active role in the organization. This may dissuade Trump from following through on previous statements, such as one saying that “NATO is obsolete”. Notably, Trump has vocalized more positive statements regarding the United State’s participation in the organization, leaving many confused on his true stance. The North Atlantic Trade Organization, also known as NATO, is an alliance between several European and North American nations, mentionably the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, and the UK. Members pledge military support to each other if conflict arises in a country, and it originated during the Cold War as a defense to the Soviet Union. What this means is that the counterterrorism efforts of France is very relevant to the United States. If France is attacked, it could lead the United States to intervene on France’s behalf, along with the other 28 member nations.

Although the Trump and Macron may have differences about the effectiveness of NATO, they are both skeptical about Vladimir Putin and his intentions in the world community. While tensions have been rising recently between the United States and Russia, especially over the past election, where hacking allegations against Russia were made, we can expect that France will be an ally in that regard. Similarly, France, like the United States, is one of the five permanent member on the United Nations Security Council. This gives them the right to veto global disputes. Histo, the United States and France vote alongside each other, but that could change now having two leaders with very different political standings.

Macron dominated the final election, getting just over 20 of the 30 million votes casted. Grace Angus, a student at nearby Fordham that is currently studying abroad in Paris, said that prior to the election there was a large riot among high schoolers who were protesting both of the candidates. She says that they “had some chant saying ‘not a racist, not a banker’ since they were happy with either choice of candidate like a lot of people. They started throwing bottles and rocks at cops who responded with tear gas”. About 25% of the country who was eligible to vote didn’t, the largest amount France has ever seen. That being said, prior to election night, it wasn’t so obvious that Macron would even win, let alone by such a large margin.

Global politics, especially those concerning nations that have strong diplomatic relations with the United States, are always important to keep up with and consider when forming our own opinions, even on domestic politics. Mrs. Smith, one of the French teachers here at Byram Hills, said that her class “spent a good deal of time discussing the election”, and that she hopes her students “will continue to follow with interest what is going on in France and in the U.S”. Another noteworthy election that will be happening in the near future is the Iranian election on May 15.