French Presidential Race

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As the presidential election approaches in France, the far right is surging yet splintered

  • In France in recent days, a dispute over the placement of an EU flag under the Arc de Triomphe has signaled the start in earnest of the campaign for the next French president.
  • Far right figures, including presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, railed against the supposed replacement of a French flag with an EU flag, claiming this dishonored French war heroes.
  • The rhetoric marks an attempt to stoke nationalist fervor ahead of the two-round French presidential election in April. The top two candidates from the first vote will go head-to-head in a runoff.
  • Ahead of the election, far right sentiment in France is strong. But Le Pen, long the darling of the French far right, is contending with a new rival that in some ways is more radical than her.
  • The new candidacy of Éric Zemmour, a 63-year-old television pundit and anti-immigrant firebrand, has had the effect of dividing far right votes.
  • That means that despite the popularity of the far right in France, it’s not yet clear who will face off against the incumbent, French President Emmanuel Macron, in the second round.
  • Right now, Macron leads in polls, followed by conservative candidate Valerie Pecresse, the leader of the center-right Republicans, who has capitalized on the split among far-right voters.
  • Macron won the previous French presidential election as an insurgent centrist candidate. But over the course of his presidency, he has tacked to the right.
  • In coming months, there is likely to be an abundance of nationalist election rhetoric in France as the two far-right candidates seek outmaneuver one another to become Macron’s main opponent.
  • The French election is pivotal for the EU. France is Europe’s greatest military power and second largest economy. After Angela Merkel’s exit, Macron is also seeking more influence on EU affairs.
Financial Times
The Economist
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4 articles on this topic


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