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France’s Presidential Elections are now the most important elections in the world

by Liam Boogar - originally published on his Medium profile

In May 2017, France will elect a new President . Similar to America, the executive branch in France will choose Ministers who will handle education, defence, the economy… — in total there are currently 16 or so Ministers and a handful of State Secretaries handling sub-functions of those roles.

In the final election, there will be only two candidates — not because of a rigid two-party system, but because France does two votes after party primaries (which are going on now). The first vote contains as many candidates (per party) as are desired— major parties that present in this first round of vote include the Socialist Party “Parti Socialiste (PS)” (of which sitting president François Hollande is currently a member), The Republicans “Les Republicains (LR)” (where François Fillon was chosen as the candidate), but also the right-wing National Front party “le Front National (FN)”, The Greens “Les Verts”, Christian Democratic Party “Parti chrétien-démocrate”, and a handful more.

The two candidates from the first round of post-primary elections will advance to the final election which takes place 4 weeks later. The full list of candidates in the first round of the April elections won’t be out until the end of this year. The list won't include current President François Hollande, who last month hit a record 4% approval rating, and who announced he would not run

Why France’s Presidential race matters: another Trump or another Sanders.

Five permanent members of the UN Security Council

Five permanent members of the UN Security Council

Today, a new candidate has joined the race — we’ll get to why he’s important in a bit, but first let’s look at why this election is so important.

1) The French President has one of five permanent seat on the UN Security Council: those four other seats are held by Theresa May (UK), Donald Trump (USA), Vladimir Putin (Russia), and Xi Jinping (China). Just putting that out there.

2) With the UK leaving the EU, France is now the #2 economy in Europe: Germany, which will also hold elections later in 2017, and Italy, whose economy is in dire straits according to its own finance Minister, are the other two core members of the European Union. France’s President might decide the fate of Europe.

3) France has one of the strongest far right parties. In 2002, a character named Jean-Marie Le Pen made it through the first round of elections and faced off unsuccessfully against UMP (now Republicains) candidate Jacques Chirac.

“Congratulations to the new president of the United States Donald Trump and to the free American people”

Last week, the above tweet, sent by Front National Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen — the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who ran in 2002 — made it clear that Trump’s victory in the United States would be an ironic hymn to which the far right would march.

Who would’ve thought that nationalist parties would use other nations as examples of what their country should do?

A New Hope

Before the French primaries, I reflected on the US elections and how, if the UK & US went far right, then France would need to avoid the same fate. And I thought “Fuck it, vote Juppé.” Alain Juppé was one of the leading candidates in the right-wing (LR) primaries, whose debates had been going on unnoticed this month as the world watched America tear itself apart. He was not great, but he was not ostensibly awful, and enough people could theoretically get behind him. He was a former mayor of Bordeaux and he was a recognizable face.

For those who know me, this was a swift reversal of what I had preached for the past 12 months, which was that the tech community should get behind Emmanuel Macron, the former Economic Minister who resigned earlier this year and started his own Political party, En Marche (“in movement”), a party whose initials EM mimic his own name.

What the Business Community Can & Can’t do for Emmanuel Macron

A few weeks ago, Emmanuel Macron announced his candidacy for President. Because Macron speaks English publicly and without trepidation, I can share with the world his thoughts on major topics:

“….Donate one month’s salary to the campaign you think will make the most positive impact on France’s future.”

His thoughts back in April 2016 on the UK Referendum to Leave the EU:

His thoughts - post-Brexit - on the future of Europe:

Here’s Emmanuel Macron attending LeWeb in 2014 as the Economic Minister, staving off criticisms from French expatriates and sharing his thoughts on how government and the private sector can work together

I could go on. I really could — there are plenty of videos here that you can listen to, plenty of topics he has weighed in on, but one common thread you’ll see, whether you agree with his opinions or not: he is a proactive politician.

He does not speak about repealing laws put in place by his predecessors, or retreating from advancements made in the past 10 years. He embraces the 21st Century — in his speech announcing he would run for President, he said he wanted to be France’s first 21st century President — he embraces what digital can do for the private economy and the public economy.

Macron has a solid base in the French business community, especially the entrepreneurial scene, which has increasing influence over the French economy. We might not make up the necessary numbers to get Macron through the presidential race, but we do represent his core base, and his core base can do one thing very well: finance his ability to reach out to potential voters.

What the world can do in France’s election

The rest of the world stood by and watched as the UK voted itself out of the global economy and how the US voted itself back to the 20th century. These two empires care very little of what the rest of the world says; however, the French media, in my last six years in France, has cared more about what US and UK journalists & citizens say about France than what the French themselves think. When it’s insulting, they call it French-bashing and get just enough flags out to feign patriotism; however, when the CEO of a US company says France is a good place for technology companies, the whole economy is abuzz and the stock market jumps just a little bit.

This election is one of the last stands against the tide that’s pulling us away from globalization, away from the future we all see at the tips of our noses. France has often been the voice of reason in the world’s hottest debates. They have carried the burden of having opposed the Iraq war for the last 15 years — have you noticed how often the Eiffel Tower is blown up in action movies? — they reacted to a series of terrorist attacks whose death toll is in the hundreds and which impact on tourism is calculated in the billions, combined with a reasonable call to integrate muslim immigrants better into society (and a series of bombings on ISIS, but still). For the most part, France has taken its licks in stride and pushed forward, as a people and as a country.

If we continue to elect familiar faces with familiar chants and familiar plans of action, we will achieve familiar results. Next year’s ballot will see a Trump-esque figure (Marine Le Pen), a series of familiar political faces on both sides that resemble the very faces that lost to Trump, and Emmanuel Macron. The chants of “what has he done?” have already started, and now is the time to begin support — not when it’s too late.

1) If you’re a French citizen abroad, put your money where your bashing is and support a candidate. It’s easy to criticize — I voted absentee in the US election, but I didn’t contribute financially. I should have, and so should you. 

2) If you’re a European, pay attention. Understand what’s going on in your neighbor’s country. The outcome of France’s election will affect you, because France is among the loudest voices in European-level decisions. Germany can’t afford for France to go under, so France has a powerful hand to play. Be aware, and make sure you read local media that cover all European elections.

There’s a lot at stake. I can’t emphasize this enough. France will make one of three decisions: two steps backwards (Le Pen), standing still (Fillon), or moving forward (Macron). If France moves forward, it will give hope to other democracies with elections coming up — France must break the cycle of Far-Right election outcomes.