The fate of the EU could be decided April 23-May 7, when the French vote for a new president in their elections. If a pro-European candidate doesn’t win there, the European project may instead be forced into a long, cold winter, and nationalist, protectionist and populist agendas may once again take the upper hand.
The French presidential elections, run in two rounds on April 23 and May 7.
Le Pen is very likely to advance to the second-round final vote with Emmanuel Macron, the leading centrist candidate. Both politicians poll at about 25% currently, well ahead of other contenders. In the second round, Le Pen is expected receive only around 35% of the votes. That is well below the poll numbers of 2016’s seminal election winners: the “Leave” campaign in the U.K., and Donald Trump in the U.S. elections. But a terror attack or political bombshell might still make Le Pen a real contender in that final round on May 7.
The reasons for that are multifold, but the fact that France was the European focal point for terror attacks in recent years, and has for years had a complicated relation to immigrants, certainly plays a major role.
A possible election of Le Pen in France would be much more fatal to the European project than Brexit.
France was the EU’s Founding ‘Motor’
France, unlike the U.K., was a founding member of the EU just as The Netherlands was. But more than The Netherlands, it was also the real motor behind the European integration, together with Germany. French politicians, particularly former EU Commission President Jacques Delors, are credited with shaping the European institutions we know today. Others, such as former President Francois Mitterrand, laid the foundations for the Franco-German tandem.
It is more likely that a moderately pro-European candidate will win the French elections with a more or less comfortable margin (65% to 35% according to projections).
However, experts had also predicted that Brexit would fail and that Hillary Clinton would become president of the United States in a landslide.