French voters head to the polls on Sunday for the first of two rounds of voting to determine the next president.
There are four leading candidates. At least two of them are unpalatable to one critic. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Richard Ogier, a former press attache at the Australian embassy in Paris, states
This is the first time in half a century that one of the two major French parties is not certain to make the second round of a presidential election. It’s also unprecedented that a first-term president has decided not to run for reelection — a clear admission of failure by President François Hollande.
The candidates, from left to right across the political spectrum, are Jean-Luc Melenchon, Emmanuel Macron, Francois Fillon, and Marine LePen. (Ogier wants nothing to do with Melenchon or LePen.)
The Local reports that about the only certainty is that LePen will not be France’s next president; even if she were to finish first or second this weekend and therefore qualify for the runoff, there appears no way for her to cobble together enough voters to secure the presidency. Of course, after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, Foreign Policy warns that any political predictions must be made carefully.
Should LePen advance, Islam would become a white-hot discussion point between her and her opponent. LePen’s anti-Muslim statements are numerous, and Al-Jazeera reports that LePen’s rival would gain the overwhelming majority of Muslim votes.
The question of Islam will occupy centre stage again and will probably trigger some fierce debates between the two runoff candidates, especially if the National Front’s Marine Le Pen makes it to the second round.
The presidential candidate facing Le Pen is likely to play the cards of multiculturalism and national unity, promising of socioeconomic development and implementing anti-discrimination laws, as well as other issues that can engage French Muslim voters.
Macron spoke to President Obama today; though no official endorsement was offered, the linkage between the two men should give Macron a boost because Obama is popular in France. A Macron victory also would complete a quick political rise.