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France’s global referendum: Why the French presidential election matters in Los Angeles

Many monumental decisions have taken place across the globe recently, from the presidential election in the United States to the British Exit Referendum to the Turkish vote on constitutional powers. This past week’s French presidential primary election is no outlier.

For the first time in 60 years the French voters enter an important presidential election with no candidates from the main left-wing and right-wing parties. This year, candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen came out on top during the primaries on April 23 and head into the final election.

If elected, Macron becomes the youngest President of France in history. Unlike his rivals, Macron did not run with the support of an established political party. He has also never held an elected position before– though he served as the economy minister under former French President Francois Hollande.

Macron’s newly formed party, En Marche, which means “forward” in English, holds a centrist political standpoint and supports the European Union. His key campaign promises include tax cuts for big business but also full reimbursement of essential medical necessities such as dentures and hearing aids. Macron seems to truly represent the middle ground between conservative and liberal viewpoints.

Macron’s competitor, Le Pen, represents the National Front (FN) Party. If elected, Le Pen promises to close immigration to France completely until she can write a new policy. According to the BBC, she also compared Muslims in France to German occupation during World War II among other controversial things.

Currently, Le Pen serves as a member of the European Parliament. Aside from her immigration standpoint, Le Pen supports a referendum similar to Brexit, closure of mosques and removing illegal immigrants from the country.

This French election impacts the global community in multiple ways. Elected or not, Le Pen’s advancement to the final two candidates shows the increasing global support for socially conservative and anti-immigrant candidates. Even though Macron leads almost every poll, Le Pen can easily follow in the footsteps of some other recent decisions and win in an upset notwithstanding the polls. At the very least, Le Pen may now use her status as a widely-supported politician to influence the European Parliament from her current position.

Le Pen’s ability to beat bigger and more established parties confirms the shift of many across the globe supporting candidates with strong anti-immigrant viewpoints. Fear has truly made its way into many people’s minds.

Under Le Pen, France’s chances of leaving the European Union increases exponentially. If France joins Britain in leaving the European Union, it could destabilize the organization and the hemisphere as a whole thanks to the departure of two of the most wealthy and prominent Western European countries.

Both Macron and Le Pen’s position in the runoff shows another trend in global political change, the anti-establishment movement. While Le Pen has held public office before, she comes from a very radical standpoint. Before working for President Hollande, Macron worked as a banker. Both beat candidates with more government experience including former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Political views are becoming more and more radical, left and right voters seem to agree on less and less every day. Hopefully, Macron’s candidacy can unite the divided French population during a very hard time in the country.

As one of the most prominent countries in the European Union, France is often looked to as an example for other, smaller countries. If Le Pen is elected and closes the borders to immigrants, other countries struggling to keep up with the influx of refugees will likely follow. This election potentially changes the course of history and the lives of many more people than just the French citizens.

No matter the outcome, this election will impact the global community for decades. As high schoolers, the repercussions of this vote will affect our generation for years to come. Even though Paris is over 3,000 miles away, it’s critical to keep up with the policies implemented by the winner.

The runoff election takes place on May 7.

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