French election has deep implications for U.S., world

Unlike the American election, the French presidential election process is staged over two non-consecutive days. The initial election day was April 23, and the two candidates that received the most votes, far-right front runner Marine Le Pen and underdog centrist Emmanuel Macron, will advance to a second and final election on May 7.

Similar to the shocking results of the American election, many believe that France is brewing for drastic change, hence the popularity of Le Pen, who has a history of anti-semitic and xenophobic rhetoric. However, the similarities between the two countries’ elections stretch farther than just the unpredictable political climate.

Many of the issues in the French election, such as immigration and Middle Eastern policy, were hot button issues in the American elections. Immigration seems to be the highlight, though, and with the recent terror attacks that have plagued France, voters believe that current immigration policies are not only insufficient to protecting national security, but are worsening the already-rising 10 percent unemployment rate. Le Pen has expressed the desire to limit immigration entries to 10,000 per year, rhetoric similar to that of Donald Trump.

Other important issues include France’s messy economy. Most voters believe that their economy needs a drastic revamping, but the two candidates have drastically different methods on how to accomplish it. While Macron wants to implement business friendly measures , Le Pen wants to drop the euro and leave the European Union, but most experts agree that dropping the euro would cause far greater damage to the economy than abandoning the EU would.

But why should Americans pay attention to the outcome of the French elections? The United States and France have always worked closely on issues like counterterrorism and in organizations such as NATO and the UN; however, Le Pen’s proposed withdrawal from world alliances could weaken the strong relationship the the two countries have.

“If France were to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military structures, that would be a big blow to U.S. interests,” said Jeffrey Rathke, deputy director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in an article for Fox News.  “France is one of the most militarily capable allies that we have, and their participation in NATO missions is extremely important, and it advances U.S. security as well.”

There would also be a significant impact on the U.S.-French economic relationship. France is the third-largest European trading ally for the United States, with annual exports totalling about $30 billion in goods and $47 billion in imports.

President Trump has previously stated that he gave no formal endorsement of a candidate in the French election, but the similarities between Trump and Le Pen’s campaign strategy and rhetoric is uncanny. According to a quote from Trump to the Associated Press, Le Pen is “strongest on borders” and exhibits a similar philosophy of immigration from Muslim-populated countries.

It will be interesting to see what route French voters choose to revamp their current state, whether it be Le Pen’s radical-right methods or Macron’s liberal yet business-friendly propositions.

Either way, the result of this election will have a deep and lasting effect on not only the French political climate, but the world’s state of affairs.

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