The Sunday the French have an important appointment with the polls to elect who will be the President of the Republic for the next five years. As it happened in 2017, in the final stretch they compete Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Penand whoever is chosen, the next legislature will be marked by issues such as the loss of purchasing power of citizens or the role of France in international politics.
In addition, the formations of both candidates will have to continue the electoral battle facing the June legislative electionssince the balance of forces established by parliament will be crucial to facilitate or hinder the implementation of specific policies in the legislature of the next head of state.
Purchasing power and energy prices
The economic block opened the television debate on Wednesday between Macron and Le Pen and has placed itself at the center of the electoral campaign. The 57% of French people place purchasing power among their main concernsfar ahead of the health system, the environment, retirement or immigration.
In addition, like other neighboring countries, France is facing an increase in inequality, the precariousness of the middle classes and youth unemployment. Inevitably, the economic issue will mark the political agenda in the legislature that begins, regardless of who ends up conquering the Elysee.
France has managed to recover from the crisis after COVID-19 a lot faster than its European partners – its GDP is very close to reaching pre-pandemic levels and inflation, although it exceeds 5%, has risen less than in neighboring countries – but not all citizens perceive this improvement in their day-to-day lives. Although the purchasing power of the French grew 0.8% in the last quarter of 2021, Macron recognized it in front of Le Pen this week: “good figures do not help to make ends meet when life is more and more expensive”.
“It will be one of the topics of the next legislature, because it has been for years. France stars in a constant loss of purchasing power in recent years and the problem is that the point of reference is a truly idealized past”, explains Irene Sánchez Vítores, professor of Political Science at the URJC. “One of the problems with the candidates is that none have been able to offer a concrete and well-defined plan of what they really want to do with the purchasing power.”
Citizens have seen their pockets in danger in the current situation of uncertainty after the pandemic and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and the rise in energy prices It has only increased his concern. While Macron is committed to “blocking” the price of electricity and reforming the electricity market, Le Pen prefers to resort to reduction of VAT on energy products and suggests France’s exit from the European electricity system.
Likewise, both candidates have expressed their desire to continue promoting the nuclear energy in France, which is a 70% of the energy produced by the country, the only nuclear power in the European Union. However, its role in the future may be key to ending the energy dependency of fossil fuels.
A war in Europe and the role of France in the world
The outbreak of war in Ukraine marked the French presidential election campaign and placed President Macron as one of the visible faces of Europe before the conflict. In addition, he forced the different candidates to express their position on issues such as the application of sanctions against Russia or the sending of aid and weapons to Ukraine. The differences in thinking of the two presidential candidates could change significantly the role of french foreign policy.
“France’s role in the world is a great challenge because the positions of both candidates set different challenges“explains Adela Alija, director of the Department of International Relations at Nebrija University. “Although Le Pen has not expressed such anti-European positions as in 2017, he raises a reform of the European Union and a retrocession in the sovereignty of the States that supposes a clear change”.
While Macron has always shown himself to be a pro-European leaderMarine Le Pen opted in the last elections for leaving the Twenty-seven club, something that she has rejected in this campaign to go on to defend “a reform from within” that goes through returning powers to the member countries. With regard to NATO, the current president has gone from describing the Alliance of Nations as “brain dead” to defending its important role in the wake of the outbreak of war. Le Pen advocates exit integrated controller that occupies France and proposes a NATO rapprochement with Russia at the end of the conflict in Ukraine.
“If Macron wins, it seems reasonable to think that he will maintain a policy of presence on the international stage. Le Pen, however, could focus more on domestic policy issues and go backwards in the international sphere, but it depends on the scenario that it has to face,” argues Sánchez Vítores. “The French State has a long history and, faced with a scenario that requires a foreign presence, it cannot go back from the path already marked out or disappear so easily”.
The sticky ecological and environmental issue
Another issue that may mark the future of French politics is the environmental issue. Ecology has become one of the Macron’s priorities in his speech the last days of the campaign. To justify his inaction during his five-year term, Macron has said that he “had not thought about it enough” and alleges a change of vision with which he now promises make France “an ecological nation”.
Although the confinement allowed the reduction of traffic and, therefore, of pollution, several organizations, such as the Superior Council for Climate, have repeatedly pointed out the ineffectiveness of the efforts made by France to meet the commitment set out in the Paris Agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. France was the only country in the European Union that in 2020 did not meet the marked quota for the use of renewables on total energy consumption, in his case 23% (it came to just over 19%).
In recent weeks, France has hosted mass marches against climate change in cities like Paris, Lyon or Montpellier, where the majority of attendees were young people concerned about the future of the planet. In addition, according to Ipsos, 25% of French people include the environment among their three main concerns.
“Like all collective action dilemmas, climate change is a complex political challenge because it requires everyone’s efforts and requires governments to unpopular and expensive policies, with very diffuse benefits”, exposes Sánchez Vítores. “Macron seems to want to commit to this issue for the next five years, Le Pen not so much, but she is still driven by circumstances to take action if he becomes president.”
The challenge of social and political polarization
The electoral results of these presidential elections have ended up confirming the decline of traditional parties French and have highlighted the tendency of voters to opt for the extremes, such as Le Pen’s party, on the right, or Mélenchon’s, on the left, which was left at the gates of the second round. In the center is Macron, with much less support than in 2017, so it’s probably yes continues in the presidency has to deal with stiff opposition in parliament and among the population.
Five years ago, the current president managed to monopolize a large percentage of the useful vote against the extreme right. However, at the end of this mandate, Le Pen’s party seems stronger than ever and the polemicist Éric Zemmour has burst into politics, reaping better results than the Republicans or the Socialist Party. the block of radical rightin which both candidates meet, received more than 30% of the votes.
“The great polarization that exists in France is shown by the fact that Macron and Le Pen are so close and that the existence of the extreme right has been assumed as part of the system,” Alija explains. “The polarization It is not only in the political sphere, but also in the social sphere.. France faces profound geographical and social differences, which are very clearly evident in these elections, much more so than in 2017.”
Retirement age and pension reform
A problem that France shares with the rest of the countries of the European Union has to do with the aging of the french population and the beginning of the retirement age of the population belonging to the ‘baby boom’ generation. The issue represented an independent block within the electoral debate, it is situated between and the two candidates include very different proposals in their programs.
Emmanuel Macron defines the current pension system as “unsustainable” and poses a urgent reform which goes through a progressive increase in the retirement age from 62 to 65 to protect the pension piggy bank. In addition, it is committed to raising the minimum amount of pensions to €1,100. The candidate for the National Association, on the other hand, chooses to keep the minimum pension at €1,000, but she proposes reduce retirement age to 60 for those who have started working at 20 and keep it at 62 for the rest.
“Marine Le Pen has not been in government until now, which he has not had to worry about financing those pensionsIn addition, his proposal is aimed at a group that he considers to be potential voters”, explains Sánchez Vítores. “Macron defends delaying retirement because economically it is going to be a very big burden for the countries, but it is not well received, nobody likes to be made to work for more years.”