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And to all this… on Sunday there are presidential elections in France, why is it important for the world?

As the flames of war graze the eastern edge of the European UnionFrench voters go to the polls in a presidential election the result of which will have international repercussions. France It is the second largest economy in the bloc of 27 countries, the only one with a veto in the UN Security Council and its only nuclear power.

And as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his war in Ukraine, power in France will help shape the European response.

Twelve candidates aspire to the presidency, including the president and favorite Emmanuel Macron, seeking a new term in the face of a challenge from the extreme right.

Next, an explanation of why the election, which takes place in two rounds starting on Sunday, is important:


The Russian war in Ukraine it has given Macron a chance to flex his influence on the international stage and burnish his pro-NATO credentials in election debates. Macron is the only favorite backing the alliance, while the rest of the candidates have different views on France’s role, including giving it up. Such a step would deal a serious blow to an alliance created to protect its members in the then-emerging Cold War 73 years ago.

Despite declaring the “brain death” of NATO in 2019, in the face of the war in Ukraine, Macron tries to inject a new motivational impulse into the alliance.

“Macron really wants to originate a European pillar of NATO,” said Susi Dennison, an academic at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He has used it for his itinerant diplomacy in the conflict in Ukraine.”

On the far left, candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon wants to leave NATO, which he says only causes disputes and instability. A Melenchon president would be particularly worrying for Poland, which has a 1,160-kilometre border with territory now controlled by Russia.

Other candidates want to see a diminished participation or a complete exit from NATO. Though unlikely, a French departure from the alliance would create a deep schism with its allies and incur the ire of the United States.

European cooperation

Observers say that Macron’s re-election would mean a real possibility of increased cooperation and investment in Europe’s security and defence, especially with a new pro-EU government in Germany.

Under Macron, France’s military spending has increased by 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion), with an eye toward raising it to 2 percent of gross domestic product, a move that the rulers of other countries, notably Putin, follow very closely. In his second term, Macron almost certainly wants to generate a joint European response to the crisis in Ukraine and curb Russian threats.

A far-right alliance?

This election could reshape France’s post-war identity and indicate whether European populism is on the rise or on the decline. Now that the populist Viktor Orban has won a fourth term as prime minister in Hungary, eyes have now turned to a resurgence of French far-right candidates, in particular National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who wants to ban street use of Muslim headscarves and halal and kosher butcher shops and drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe.

“If a far-right candidate wins, you could create a kind of alliance or axis in Europe,” Dennison said. “Le Pen has been tweeting photos in recent days of her shaking hands with Orban. She proposes a Europe of strong national states”.

That axis could include Polish President Andrzej Duda, a far-right populist and ally of Donald Trump. That alarms observers.

“More than 30 percent of French voters say they are going to vote for a far-right candidate. If you include Melenchon as another extreme, anti-establishment candidate, that’s almost half the voting population. It’s unprecedented,” Dennison said.

Another far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, has dominated the airwaves in France with his controversial messages on Islam and immigration.

However, the centrist Macron hurt feelings in Muslim countries two years ago when he defended the right to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

That happened during a tribute to a teacher beheaded by a fundamentalist for showing the cartoons to his students in a class on freedom of expression.

friendship with the united states

The United States often mentions France as its oldest ally, and, from sanctions on Russia to climate change and the UNWashington needs to have Paris as a reliable partner.

France is a vital transatlantic friend for the United States, especially in its status as continental Europe’s only permanent member of the UN Security Council, with veto power.

Despite last year’s bitter US-France row over a multibillion-dollar deal to supply Australia with submarines — which humiliated France — relations between President Joe Biden and Macron are cordial.

“Macron is obviously the only candidate who has a history and credentials in relations with the United States. The others would have to start from scratch at a time of great geopolitical uncertainty,” Dennison said.

Unlike Macron, an Elysee in the hands of Zemmour or Le Pen would almost certainly mean less concern with issues that the United States considers a priority, such as climate change. “They may not prioritize the huge economic cost of keeping the Paris Climate Agreement alive and the potential to limit global warming to 1.5 percent,” Dennison said.

Migration to the mainland

In light of a huge flow of migrants to Europe last year, France’s position on migration will continue to strongly impact countries on its periphery and beyond.

This is especially due to its geographical location as a stopover on the journey of many migrants to Britain.

Last year, 27 people died when a migrant boat capsized in the English Channel, an incident that sparked a dispute between France and Britain over who was responsible.

The British accused France of not patrolling its coasts well, but Macron said that was an impossible task. Observers consider that France is not particularly open to migrants within the European context and see Macron as someone with relatively hard positions on the matter.

But Zemmour and Le Pen would almost certainly launch much harsher policies than Macron if one of them wins the election — such as cutting welfare benefits for non-citizens and limiting the number of asylum seekers. Some candidates have endorsed Trump-style border fencing.

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