It is the populist vs. the globalist.

As it was in America, France is having a change election following the failed, unpopular Socialist Party of the Francois Hollande presidency (currently at 4 percent approval; that’s not a typo). Fortunately for France, they now have a clear choice that those in the les Etats Unis were unfairly denied, between two non-establishment candidates.

  • According to French polling firm IPSOS, exit polls show Macron with 23.7 percent followed by Le Pen with 21.7 percent of the vote.
  • France will go to the polls again for the runoff election on May 7.

The fact that Le Pen and Macron are the two front runners that will move into the second round of elections represents a remarkable shift for France as for the first time in the country’s history, neither of the two mainstream parties, the Socialists on the left or the Republicans on the right made it to the final round.

Le Pen heads the far-right National Front party, which in the past was known largely for its xenophobia. Macron, a political neophyte who has never held elected office, represents En Marche!, a brand-new, centre-left party with a vision for a more inclusive France at the heart of a strong European Union.

Turning point

“This is perceived as a turning point election,” said Catherine Fieschi, a specialist of populist politics and director of Counterpoint, a political research consultancy in London, as the polls closed. “It says something about the trajectory of Europe: a choice to move forward rather than back. But also, a choice to take France in a different direction: more open rather than closed, turned toward the world — if Macron comes through.”

Perhaps the French will see the consequences of voting for a “fear of the other,” anti-immigrant candidate when they see the chaos that Donald Trump has wrought is less than 100 days. Marine Le Pen of the Front National represents the demise of the European project successfully led by French statesman, Jean Monnet, in the aftermath of two world wars.

The graveyards of France are filled with American, British, and French soldiers who fought and died to end the madness of rabid nationalism that ripped apart the continent in the last century. Let’s hope the French remember their own history better than America did, especially since the U.S. will not be able to rescue them.

Le Pen: A referendum on Europe

  • She wants to expel all illegal immigrants from France and a 10,000-person limit on new immigration
  • Plans to introduce retirement age at 60, a fixed 35-hour workweek, and bolstered public services
  • Has called for a referendum on whether France should stay in the Euro

While this is of course not a Frexit, Le Pen has frequently promised on the campaign trail to pull France out of the European Union, along with the Euro common currency and perhaps even NATO. It was a campaign promising a reduction of immigrants that France will accept.

Le Pen is a right-wing populist, and her ideas sound a lot more like what you would expect to hear on the left – including keeping the work week short and lowering the retirement age. Where the difference is made is over who she thinks should be able to enjoy these benefits.

For Le Pen, France is for the French — that is, primarily French nationals, and the non-immigrant French population. With her promise for a referendum on the EU, it would all but certainly wipe out the EU and do everlasting damage to Europe.

But Macron is Le Pen’s opposite.

Emmanuel Macron

  • He wants to bolster the country’s relationship with the E.U.
  • Introduce industry deregulation, flexibility for companies with the 35-hour workweek
  • He wants to develop an investment plan to help move France toward renewable energy

Many are jubilant that Macron is in the lead. He’s the best person for the job – left leaning, committed to the Constitution of the 5th Republic, but also, forward-thinking in preparing the country for the future – ecologically, technologically, educationally – with training and jobs creation in 21st century sectors.

He understands economics and has already presented a budget – egalitarian, not driven by the principle of austerity – with incentives for growth, and not too onerous for any one class or group of people; and above all, workable.

He does not want to tear down or change France. Fiercely French, he also has a spirit of openness to the world, which France must embrace if it wishes to remain connected, financially and socially, to the world.

He is very much pro-European Union, which, for those in Europe, is particularly important at this time, with the menace of Putin and the unreliability of Trump. France is a strong military power that has gone above and beyond in fighting terrorism.

France does not want to give up on the European Union – it’s a dream, and a reality, that many have worked hard on to achieve. Europe is stronger together, and now forms the world’s largest trading bloc.

Macron, in his victory speech, said, “I will gather people together … to reconcile our France.” He added, “I heard doubts expressed, the fears of the French people, and the desire for change as well.” He promised to be a “president of all the French people, the president of patriots faced with the threat of nationalists. A president who will protect and transform and build. A president who will allow those who want to create, innovate, enterprise and work to do so more easily and more speedily. A president who helps those who have less.”

Other leaders are behind Macron

The current prime minister, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon and Republican candidate Francois Fillon, have already begun to throw their weight behind Macron.

No one in France had to hold their nose and vote for Macron as the best of the worst. He is qualified, no stranger to politics and has universal support from the centre-right and Socialist parties. He is by no means inept. Le Pen wishes to move backward, Macron wishes to go forward – En Marche!