Update: Macron and Le Pen projected as making it through to the run-off to be held next month.
The French go to the polls today to elect their president.
A frontrunner in France’s most cliffhanger presidential election is Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche! (meaning ‘On the March’ or ‘Forward!’).
Note that his party shares the same ‘EM’ initials as his name.
Macron, 39, is an ex-investment banker and France’s former Minister of Economy.
He is married to Brigitte Trogneux – a 64-year-old rich grandmother of seven (from three children with her first husband) who was Macron’s high school teacher.
His unusual marriage – with its quarter of a century age gap – has sparked speculation that Macron is a closet homosexual.
(Donald Trump, born 1946, is similarly 24 years older than current wife Melania, born 1970, but their age difference is glossed over.)
Marine Le Pen, 49, leads the Front National (FN).
She is a lawyer and member of the European parliament. Her partner (love interest) is Louis Aliot – a 48-year-old fellow lawyer and vice president of the Front National.
Cloud People vs Dirt People
Those who embrace the knowledge economy are voting Macron. Blue collar Frenchmen are voting Le Pen.
The techopreneul class feels less threatened by immigrants. Think the hiring trend in companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple that have multinational staff.
Manual labourers, industrial/agricultural workers and other low waged French natives, on the other hand, fear that immigrants are taking away their jobs.
France’s youth unemployment rate is high – almost a quarter (23.6%) of those aged under-25 don’t have jobs. This young voter segment favours Le Pen’s party.
Globalization vs Nationalism
More recently, Macron attacked Le Pen for objecting to the Brussels flag flying in the TV studio where she was to be interviewed. The French television channel later complied and removed the EU blue flag with yellow stars on Tuesday (Apr 18).
Le Pen’s stand is that she is campaigning to be president of France, “not the European Commission”.
The Eurosceptic Le Pen is a believer in the nation state – ‘France First’ – who has said that if she becomes president, a Frexit referendum will be held on the question of her country pulling out of the EU.
She has also proposed that France ditch the euro (€) and revert to its old currency, the franc.
⇓ Macron: Proud that France is one of the yellow stars in the constellation
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) April 22, 2017
Metropoles vs periphery
Metropoles are metropolitan centres where the city folks are doing relatively well economically and benefitting from globalization. In contrast, the economy in France’s rural areas is tanking.
For a leader of a party that is barely one years old, Macron has gained remarkable traction in double quick time among the elites and the establishment.
The English-language global media are backing Macron to the hilt.
In contrast, Le Pen’s strongholds are in countryside. These are areas that can be characterized in American terms as the Dust Bowl (depressed agricultural region) as well as the Rust Belt (declining deindustrialized region).
FN is furthermore getting the swing vote from socialists, a party whose current leader President François Hollande is so unpopular that his approval rating is at a record low – in the single digit (4%).
Bobo vs Basket of Deplorables
‘Bobo’ is an acronym combining the words ‘bourgeois’ and ‘bohemian’. It describes affluent liberals who are well educated.
The bobos go for Macron.
Le Pen’s followers have been demonized by the media as racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic.
Contrary to Macron who lauded German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Muslim refugee policy, Le Pen’s campaign slogan is “On est chez nous!” [This is our home!]
Le Pen supporters are social conservatives who want to preserve France’s Christian legacy and Gallic culture and keep out any more immigrants.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a Catholic who was the FN’s youngest MP (only 22 years old) at the time of her election, is even more religiously devout than her aunt Marine.
Battle of the twits
Trump vs Obama
After Thursday’s shooting at Paris tourist attraction the Champs-Élysées that left a police officer dead and two others wounded, President Trump just fell short of endorsing Le Pen in his tweet below.
Trump also told news agency AP that the attack by the Muslim gunman will “probably help” Le Pen as she is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France”.
Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
Meanwhile, President (Emeritus) Obama predictably made a bromantic phone call to Macron — video below tweeted by Macron.
Obama had similarly poked his nose into Brexit urging British voters to remain in the EU as well as previously interfered in Israel’s election to derail incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu.
But according to the fawning New York Times, some Parisians simply prefer to have Obama as their president instead. The unhinged NYT would believe that!
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 20, 2017