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Sunday, December 9, 2018

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Kim Twist is an assistant professor of political science at San Diego State University. Kim Twist is an assistant professor of political science at San Diego State University.

Kim Twist on the French Election

SDSU political science professor Kim Twist weighs in on the upcoming French presidential election.
By Katie Stanchis

French voters are going to the polls this weekend, and there is a lot at stake for a country that has been rocked by numerous terrorist attacks over the last several years. On Sunday, May 7, French citizens will decide whether pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron or far-right candidate Marine Le Pen will become the next president of their country.

“France has a two-round electoral system for both its executive and its legislative elections” said Kim Twist, assistant professor of political science at San Diego State University. “In presidential elections, if no candidate wins 50 percent of the national vote, the top two candidates advance to a second round of voting."

Macron and Le Pen rose to the top during the first round of the elections after incumbent president François Hollande made the unusual decision not to run for a second term.

Macron and Le Pen beat François Fillon, Benoît Hamon, two candidates whose parties had dominated politics in France for decades, as well as socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

“The 2017 French presidential election is considered a sign of both the death of traditional parties and the future of Europe,” said Twist.

Macron founded the centrist political movement En Marche! last year, and Le Pen ran as the candidate for the National Front, a right-wing populist party. She stepped down from the party’s top job a day after she won a spot in Sunday’s election.

“It’s difficult to imagine that either the National Front or Macron’s new party, En Marche!, could win a majority of seats," said Twist. “The National Front won only two constituencies in 2012, while En Marche! will be starting from scratch. So whoever wins the election on Sunday will have a tough time enacting legislation.”

Le Pen is the daughter of FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and has had an active role in the party for decades, leading it since her father stepped down in 2011. She has served as a member of the European Parliament. Macron is a former investment banker who has held several cabinet positions under President Hollande’s leadership. The two candidates stand on opposite ends of the spectrum on most issues facing their nation.

“One of the main issues on which Macron and Le Pen diverge is France’s relationship with the European Union,” said Twist. "Le Pen wants France to leave the EU—unless a major transfer of powers back to France were to take place, which is highly unlikely. Additionally, she wants to drop the Euro and re-introduce the franc as France’s national currency."

Macron, on the other hand, is in favor of remaining in the European Union and wants to work with other countries in Europe.

“Macron has argued for reforms to the Eurozone and more free trade agreements, while being strongly in favor of France’s continued membership in both the EU and the common currency” said Twist.

With the candidates of both of France’s mainstream parties eliminated in the first round of the elections, Sunday’s  election is being watched with great interest both in the European Union and around the world.

“If France were to leave the EU, many in Europe feel it would be the beginning of the end of the European Union,” said Twist. "Macron and Le Pen are deeply divided on most issues, so the path forward for France depends very much on the outcome of this election.”