Presidential election: who will France choose?

In the first round of the French presidential election, polls suggest that incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen have the best chances of making it into a run-off. Europe's press criticises the campaign and speculates anxiously about the results.

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Zeit Online (DE) /

Europe should watch very closely

Zeit Online fears for the common front against Russia:

“As president, Le Pen wants to detach France from Nato's joint command structures. France would not leave the Western alliance, but it would certainly distance itself from it. The French troops currently stationed in the Baltic states and Romania would presumably be withdrawn. The consequences would be enormous: Nato, which is in the process of strengthening its eastern flank, would be weakened; the unity of the West would be no more. Vladimir Putin would be delighted. It sounds a bit hackneyed, but it's true nonetheless: Europe's future will also be decided in the coming weeks in France. We'd better watch this closely.”

Denik N (CZ) /

EU needs Macron as a leader

Particularly in the current situation Macron's re-election is extremely important for the Franco-German tandem, Denik N stresses:

“He is an important political figure in Europe, especially right now, because the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet made his mark. Macron has the ambition to set the tone in Europe. ... Together with Germany, France is still the driving force in the European Union; together the two countries can push through major innovations. ... The idea of Macron losing to Marine Le Pen, who is anti-European and incompetent in EU matters, is a nightmare.”

Les Echos (FR) /

More interactive democracy

In a guest commentary in Les Echos, academics Laurent Davezies, Alain Ehrenberg, Sylvain Kahn and Jacques Lévy call for more interactive democracy in the next five years:

“A space for public debate must be created which helps citizens to openly decide their own future. After Emmanuel Macron's 'At the same time! [left and right], what is needed is a 'Straight ahead! With all of those who recognise themselves in this approach, we want to promote the emergence of a dynamic, progressive centre, in public space and discussion. Broadening horizons is a prerequisite for moving forward, step by step, at the pace at which society can actually set itself in motion.”

Expressen (SE) /

Market liberalism has abandoned workers

The betrayal of the working class has strengthened politicians like Le Pen, comments political scientist Halil Karaveli in Expressen:

“Macron represents an urban middle class that no longer displays solidarity with the working class. Yet democracy in France was won by the working class together with the progressive middle strata of society, and the welfare state was based on a class alliance between workers and employees. In France, this alliance has been completely dissolved. ... When the Socialist Party swung towards market liberalism, the far right also began to grow and win the support of working-class voters.... ... [Macron's] right-wing liberalism is not a viable long-term strategy to protect democracy from the threat of the far right.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Only the media is interested in lost grandeur

On the whole, French people have little interest in all the hype about a supposed loss of France's grandeur, NRC Handelsblad's correspondent in France Bas Heijne writes:

“You hear about it on TV and Twitter, you read about it in books and intellectual magazines, but rarely in everyday life. ... What a large majority of French people are worried about, however, is their 'way of life', a rather elusive form of identity. Everything is still pretty much in order now, but will it stay that way? That must be precisely why the theatrical doom-and-gloom proclamations by Zemmour and his kind attract so much attention, and why the media harps on and on about whether the European flag should have been allowed to hang from the Arc de Triomphe.”

Mérce (HU) /

French have other worries than immigration

Dominated by the right, the campaign debates are largely irrelevant for voters, Mérce comments:

“By and large the most pressing problems of the French are purchasing power - that is, prices and wages - as well as health care, the pension system and also Ukraine. Immigration was named by barely a quarter of voters as one of the three most important problems, and the secularism of the Republic - allegedly threatened by the advance of Islam - by barely a tenth. ... However, at times it seems the most discussed issue in the campaign is whether it is feminism or anti-racism that is destroying the country and turning it into a second Lebanon.”