BREAKING: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron Advance to the Second Round of Voting in the French Election

BREAKING: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron Advance to the Second Round of Voting in the French Election

Photo Source: CNN.com

Photo Source: CNN.com

Ian Robert Henderson, Foreign Policy Contributor

With the results of the French election's first round coming to a close, the two polling frontrunners, center-left former Socialist Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron of the self-made En Marche party, and conservative populist Marine Le Pen of the National Front party advance to the second round. With 90% of the election results reported at the time of this article being written, Macron has secured 23.8% of the vote (8,205,212 votes), with Le Pen receiving 21.7% (7,490,156 votes). 9 other candidates ran in the first round, including Francois Fillon of the center-right Republican party (20% of the vote) and Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left populist party, Unsubmissive France (19.4% of the vote) and Benoit Hamon of current President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party (6.3% of the vote). The remaining candidates received less than 5%. In France's election system, if no one candidate receives more than 50% of the popular vote in the first round, then the top two vote getters move on to the second round. That being said, Macron and Le Pen will face off in a final vote on May 7th for the keys to the Elysee Palace. In an unprecedented situation, neither of the candidates from the two establishment parties, The Republicans and the Socialists, advanced to the second round.

While Macron is considered a newcomer and comes from his own self-created party, En Marche, (styled after his initials), he is a former member of the Socialist party and served as the Economy Minister for president Francois Hollande from 2014-2016. He claims to be an outsider, and is trying to appeal to both ends of the spectrum, but his ties to Hollande have led many to criticize him for having the same or similar policies as the extremely unpopular incumbent President. Macron has tried to shake off that criticism by saying he started his own movement out of a profound disagreement with Hollande's policies. Macron is pro-EU and claims to be pro-business. In regards to terrorism and islamic immigration, he has promised to be tough on terrorism but has staunchly opposed discrimination against France's Islamic community.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, has baggage of her own, as she tries to shake off the image of her father, who has been deemed racist and a holocaust denier. In doing so, she kicked her father out of the party and has reshaped the National Front into a populist movement. Her policies include initiating a FREXIT that would have France leave the EU and the borderless Schengen Area, the abandonment of the Euro currency and bringing back the Franc, as well has imposing very strict immigration policies and crackdowns on Islamic terrorism within the country. Her economic policies, however, are more on the center to left. Le Pen is very economically protectionist and in favor of policies including: imposing taxes on companies that hire foreign nationals, lowering the retirement age to 60, reducing energy prices and taxes, and introducing trade barriers along with measures designed to help small rather than big business. This type of rhetoric has led to her to have the support of many working class French as well as young millennials. The National Front is the most popular party for those aged 18-34 according to polling organization Odoxa. Whether this has an effect on the election on May 7th is yet to be seen.

Both candidates have a fairly large following, but Le Pen's party has more of a stable foundation while Macron is a relative new face with a new party. Establishment politicians and EU representatives are certain to back Macron, as Le Pen remains a threat to their control over the existing governing mechanisms and will do everything in their power to ensure that Macron wins the presidency, even if he isn't from one of their established parties. On the other hand, conservative populists like Nigel Farage, will likely promote Le Pen's candidacy. Seeing that the election results were within nearly a percent, as to who will win on May 7th is anyone’s guess, but it sends a huge message to the world about which direction Europe will take: maintaining the current EU structure or taking the national populist route in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Only time will tell.

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