France’s two non-traditional presidential candidates offer voters a big choice: stay or leave the European Union.
Emmanuel Macron is a former economy minister and Marine Le Pen is the leader of the National Front party. The two will face each other in the May 7th election, after finishing first and second in the first round of voting on Sunday.
Macron, 39, and Le Pen, 48, finished ahead of candidates from the leading French political parties, including the party of the current president.
Le Pen wants French voters to follow Britain and vote for France’s exit from the European Union. She also calls for major limits on immigration.
Macron wants France to remain in the European Union. He promises new spending on job training and building up roads, transportation and less-polluting energy.
Establishment backing Macron
Macron ran as an independent and political outsider. But political leaders, both inside and outside France, quickly offered support for Macron.
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande said Le Pen would “deeply divide France” at a time when terrorism threats require “solidarity.”
Macron was the top adviser on economic issues for Hollande. He ended that role to start his En Marche independent party. His party’s name means, “In Motion" in French.
Francois Fillon of the conservative Republicans finished in third place in the weekend’s voting. On Monday, Fillon urged his supporters to vote for Macron.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel joined officials from Spain and the European Union in supporting Macron on Monday.
If Macron wins on May 7th, he would become France’s youngest president.
Le Pen out campaigning
Le Pen did not waste any time attacking her opponent.
On Monday, she called Macron “weak” in the fight against Islamic terrorism. During an appearance at a farmers’ market in northern France, she told reporters that Macron “has no program” to stop terrorism.
Le Pen’s supporters criticized Macron’s job as an investment banker and his efforts under Hollande to deregulate the French economy.
Florian Philippot is deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front. He said on BFM TV that Macron will not help French workers. “He sold off national companies. He criticized French culture,” Philippot said.
Macron’s early lead
Macron’s establishment support and early lead in the polls appeared to please investors.
Stock markets across Europe saw big increases Monday and the Euro increased value against the American dollar. CAC 40, the French stock market index, increased 4.1 percent on Monday to close at its highest level since early 2008.
But some experts say a Macron win is not guaranteed.
They noted that British voters surprised experts last year by approving withdrawal from the European Union, a move that has become known as “Brexit.” And few political experts saw Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton in last year’s American presidential election.
Christophe Guilluy is author of “The Twilight of Elite France.” He said, “In France, Britain, the Netherlands, Austria and the U.S. the same people -- blue- and white-collar workers, intermediate occupations and farmers -- are joining the populist revolt. “The rift between the global market’s winners and losers has replaced the old right-left split.”
Luis Ramirez and Jamie Dettmer reported on this story for VOA News. Bruce Alpert adapted the story for Learning English with additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page.
Words in This Story
exit - n. the act of going out or away from something
poll - n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something
strategy - n. a plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time
solidarity - n. a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals
motion - n. an act or process of moving
deregulate - v. remove regulations on an activity
white-collar - adj. having the kind of jobs that are done in an office instead of a factory or warehouse
intermediate occupations - phrase . other kinds of jobs