Five things to watch in France’s election – The Hill

This election uniquely includes both right- and left-wing populists, with the National Front’s Le Pen and La France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Melenchon.

A runoff with Le Pen and Macron would also be notable, since it wouldn’t include the mainstream parties that have governed in France for decades.

“It wouldn’t be the classic left vs right divide but two views of the world clashing,” Ifop pollsters’ Jerome Fourquet told Reuters. “Macron bills himself as the progressist versus conservatives, Le Pen as the patriot versus the globalists.”

Relationship with Trump

President Trump could gain a vocal ally in France depending on who wins.

Trump this week called Le Pen the “strongest on borders” and “the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” While he didn’t explicitly endorse Le Pen, he also predicted Thursday’s deadly shooting on the Champs-Elysees would “probably help” her.

Meanwhile, former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaFive things to watch in France’s election Ex-Obama aide Rhodes: Le Pen victory in France would be ‘devastating’ Sanders to Trump: ‘Listen to the scientists’ MORE has also signaled his preference in the race. Obama spoke by phone with Macron this week to wish him “all the best,” though a spokesman said he wasn’t formally endorsing a candidate.

A former top Obama aide, Ben Rhodes, also wrote Saturday on Twitter that a Le Pen victory would be “devastating.” 

While some of Le Pen’s campaign rhetoric on immigration and security echoed Trump’s, she recently criticized Trump for backtracking on his position on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) when he called it no longer “obsolete.”

“Undeniably he is in contradiction with the commitments he had made,” Le Pen told a French radio outlet last week, CNN reported.

“I am coherent, I don’t change my mind in a few days. He had said he would not be the policeman of the world, that he would be the president of the United States and would not be the policeman of the world, but it seems today that he has changed his mind.”

Melenchon has also criticized Trump for taking military action in Syria earlier this month.

If recent terror attacks affect the race

France has been rocked by terrorism in the last few years, from the coordinated 2015 Paris attacks to Thursday’s murder of a police officer on the Champs-Elysees shopping strip. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility following both attacks.

While the Trump administration has recently affirmed its commitment to NATO, Le Pen has vowed to at least partially withdraw from the alliance.

France’s departure could place an additional burden on the U.S. and other member states, both militarily and monetarily. France has one of the most-powerful militaries in the world and holds a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Several leading candidates representing both the far left and far right have proposed taking France out of NATO’s military command or removing it altogether. 

“It would be catastrophic — the undoing of 65 years of foreign and security policy,” François Heisbourg, an analyst with the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, told The Washington Post. “This is big.” 

France’s security moves could have implications concerning Russia. Le Pen has shown a warmness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she met last month, and has criticized western sanctions against Moscow.

Will France hold a referendum to leave the European Union?

In a document laying out the National Front’s platform in February, Le Pen promised to hold a referendum on France’s membership to the European Union (EU) should the organization refuse to get rid of its shared currency and the lack of border restrictions.

But the Nationalist Front isn’t the only French party critical of the EU. Melenchon has also expressed disapproval over France’s membership.

Macron, who worked as an economic adviser to France’s current President Francois Hollande before becoming economy minister, is pro-European Union. He also supports the EU keeping in place sanctions it imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crime.

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