French Elections – Would this determine the fate of EU?

Amidst the outcry over Brexit, a curveball in the form of French Elections has thrown the European Union into distress.  In the run-up to vote, attention from both inside and outside France has focused on the political and economic consequences of a Potential Frexit from the European Union or the euro currency. With the deadly attack on police officers by a small –time criminal on 20th April apparently inspired  by  the Islamic State, the focus is drawn towards the potential impact of the same on the elections.  Will the concerns over unemployment, security and stability of economy of the French populace affect the results of the elections? Will elections alter the status quo the European Union (EU)? Will it have any impact on UK’s decision to leave the EU? Answers to these questions could potentially alter  the political landscape of the  Europe continent.

The first round of the 2017 French presidential elections to be held on 23rd April will witness the battle amongst the eleven candidates. In this case, there is no clear majority, the top two candidates will go through to a run-off vote on May 7. Of the eleven, the four front runner candidates each promise to govern France using their own distinct methods and policies.

François Fillon, a conservative from the centre-right Republican Party expressed his opinions against federalism and maintains that there will not be any change in the EU bloc during his regime. On the other hand Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front adopted a hard-line stance on immigration along with automatic shut down of ‘extremist’ mosques. She hopes to negotiate terms with Brussels on a new EU following a referendum of France’s exist from the EU. While Emmanuel Macron, former economy minister and an independent centrist believes in strengthening the French economy labour and other structural reforms along with reviving the Franco-German influence over the EU.  Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard-left candidate who created the Unsubmissive France movement hopes to establish a “Sixth Republic” to replace the existing presidential system and France to exit the EU block. He has also accused the West of provoking Russia with its missle-defense systems. He hopes to revive the historically close French-Russia ties which could prove to be detrimental to France’s ally United States. The diversity in the ideologies of these candidates raises concerns over the impact the election will have on the EU, the UK and the rest of the Western world.

Various factors need to be considered to predict the outcome of the elections. One such factor is the recent terror attack in Paris. The death of two police officers has raised speculation of swing in the election. Dr. Robb Willer, sociologist from Stanford has said that Terrorism typically ratchets up nationalistic impulses in presidential campaigns. The Spanish general elections of 2004 and Bush’s Stint at White House post 9/11 prove that acts of terror can sway the opinions of the citizens to vote for candidates who adopt stringent policies against terrorism and immigration. In the present case, political analysts have predicted that the attack could boost Penn’s run for Presidency in due to her hard-in line stance against immigration and extremism. But there always exists uncertainty and predictions could go wrong.

France, often as a beacon of democratic ideals, is the world’s sixth-largest economy and is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, member of the NATO and a nuclear power. The French defence and foreign policy could change with candidates like Mélenchon leaning towards Russia or Macron emphasising the need to stabilise the economy within the EU bloc while criticizing Putin or Penn stance to have stringent policies with regards to immigration and favouring a potential Frexit being elected as the President. However, presidency of Macron could prove to be beneficial to the EU and UK.”

His vision of reforming France while staying in the EU bloc leaves room for negotiations for the UK with respect to Brexit and UK’s trade relations. On the other hand Presidency of Pen or Mélenchon will throw the EU of balance. The cooperation between France and Germany  has enabled the EU to stay afloat.  France exiting the EU will not only destroy the very foundation on which the EU was established but also result in economy of Europe plummetting . France is the only country in Europe with  nuclear weapons  capability and together  with Germany has been  the bedrock of Europen defense.

The French election could impact not just on the EU but the rest of the western world as well. It could encourage other member countries to exit the EU.   The existence of the Fifth Republic, the dual executive system can however delay immediate implementation of these diverse policies adopted the candidates since in France the President has to take prior approval of the parliament to put their policies into action. This could to a large extend  mitigate the impact on EU in the short term. The French elections will determine the fate of Europe.