The European Union is facing a long row of challenges; the upcoming second round of the French elections is one of the most important. We asked two French women on their perspectives towards the decision next Sunday.
Pro-Euorpean Emmanuel Macron and anti-European Marine Le Pen. This is the duo fighting for the French presidency on May 7th. After a longstanding election campaign with more than one surprise these two candidates are the only ones left from a crowd of applicants. It is the first time in the Vth republic that no candidate of socialists or republicans is in the run-off. Less than 50 percent of the electorate have voted for both of the candidates together. While the conservative candidate François Fillon and the left-wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon have missed out the participation for only some percentage points, the socialists were facing a historic defeat.
Many – especially young – voters are disappointed and unsure what the future will bring for them and their home country and do not want to decide for a candidate whose programme they are not supporting. Two of them, 19-year-old Clémentine, studying Economics and Sociology in Lille and Maëlle, 18, doing her preparatory class for business school, told us via Skype about their opinions.
Have the first round results of the French elections surprised you? If yes, why?
Clémentine: I wouldn’t call it a surprise. I have been following the polls for six months now. But I hoped for very different results – as I did not vote for one of the candidates which are in the second round now. I still had hope for another candidate …
Maëlle: Actually no, they did not surprise me. I was expecting either Macron-Le Pen or Le Pen-Fillon.
Which of the candidates convinced you the most?
Clémentine: It was a bit complicated, I changed my mind twice: At the beginning I didn’t want to vote at all, even though I am very much into politics. I did not find anyone who really convinced me. Then I wanted to vote for Philippe Poutou, who is not really my candidate, but if you have extreme left ideas you want to vote for a candidate representing these ideas. Afterwards I realized that Jean-Luc Mélenchon would have a good chance to reach the second round, so I read his programme again and finally voted for him.
Maëlle: For me it was Fillon, because he offered the people, entire France a better future. He was looking at France in a long term perspective: First of all he wanted to stop the growing debts. According to me cutting the debt is the only way to make sure that France will be okay in a few years.
How to you perceive the current atmosphere in France?
Clémentine: Actually it is quite violent. We have three or even four camps: The ones voting for Le Pen; the ones being convinced by Macron, all the centralists and soft right; the ones not convinced but still voting for Macron, our so-called barrage républicain, what means everything but the Front National. It is horrible. And you have the abstentionists, who do not want to vote for any of the candidates. Now the barrage républicain is threatening the people who don’t want to vote, telling them: ‘If you do not vote it is you fault if the Front National will be governing.’
This is really a problem as still Macron has particular ideas – many people are not convinced by him and do not want to vote for him. Everyone is ‘Oh my god, what is happening, what is happening.’ And nobody really understands why Marine Le Pen is in the second round – I say it is because of the current government and Macron has been part of this government.
Maëlle: The current atmosphere? I think this is the first time we are facing a situation like this. People do not know what to think about it. They are quite lost. The two candidates offer very different visions of France’s future. So people are a bit scared of what is going to happen next as many do not agree with both of the candidates.
Hopes and Fears
What are your personal hopes and fears for the second round of elections?
Clémentine: I still do not know if I am going to vote. That is as well why I feel this pressure. But what do I fear? The Front National at government. They just got a revisionist (editors note: Jean-François Jalkh stepped down of his office after three days) as head of the party. That is really dangerous. Even if Le Pen doesn’t get elected, I am afraid that Macron gets too much support, like 65 percent of the votes, and feels legitimated to implement his plans – which are horrible for workers and the environment – even though just a small minority wants him to be president.
Maëlle: That’s a good question! I am a bit scared that Marine Le Pen might be elected as president as she for example wants to leave the EU and the Euro. I absolutely do not know what could happen next. For me the most important issues are education and the economy of France – so I hope that the candidates will be fighting for changes. The actual educational system does not enable the pupils to speak real French and has many other problems. That’s where I hope for improvements.
The Issue of Europe
How present is the issue of Europe for you in this campaign?
Clémentine: Europe was a really important issue in the campaigns: For example in the fight between the two leftist candidates Mélenchon and Hamon. Mélenchon’s principle argument was that he wasn’t pro-European – which was actually wrong. Talking about the European issue made the comparison between the candidates possible. They were able to refer ‘Europe is here in my programme. These are my plans …’ According to the population now in France – I think it is the same in other countries – many people are afraid by Europe for e.g. economical policies. Lots of people do not want no Europe at all, but another, a different Europe.
Maëlle: France belongs to Europe and we should not leave it! The culture united and unites us. But there are problems: The Euro is weak right now. France should do its best to get out of the economical crisis to contribute further to solutions for the Euro. That is important to me.