A vote of purpose or conviction?

The French elections will soon be over, with the final round this Sunday. At around 8pm UK time, results will be in as to who will be the next President of the 5th Republic. The Inheritor of the Front National, Marine Le Pen or the creator of En Marche!, Emmanuel Macron?

Online, militants have expressed their opinions and have sent concerning hashtags trending: “Sans moi le 7 Mai” (“The 7th May without me”).

French highschoolers, famed for their militantism, march against the first-round results. “Neither homeland nor bossman.” Image: RMC – BFMTV

Adamant first-round voters have decided not to go to polling stations for the second round, disappointed with the popular choice for finalists. An understandable decision, bearing in mind that democracy is the expression of the people as to who they see fit to be the leader of their country.

This idea should be reserved for the first round of elections only. The two candidates now running for office are the only choices available to the public, and to abstain would be to let the rest of one’s people make the choice for you, leading to an unspoken ban on one’s opinion for the duration of the coming mandate.

If one cannot take a few hours out of their day to designate the better fitting leader of the country for the next five years, who would impact the world’s economy, social rights, and warfare, then how can others consider them responsible and invested enough to criticise ongoing politics?

The stakes are high this weekend. The right have a candidate whose father founded the extremist FN party before spreading hate speech and being prosecuted for it. The left have adopted their runaway centrist candidate, who resigned from Hollande’s government to found his own “movement”. His rise on the national and global stages is remarkable, with a path similar to that of previous US President Barack Obama.

Mr Macron began his campaign by knocking on people’s doors and asking his colleagues to do the same. He has addressed issues more conventional politicians have shied from, dismissing them as a cold case. He is not, however, blameless.

He apologised for the war in Algeria, whereby he addressed war crimes committed by his nation. He later implied Africa as a continent would be the next international financial hub and that France should be there to help. The tweet implying modern colonialism did not go unnoticed.

His stance later became ominous when he appealed to right-wing voters by insisting the country move past mistakes of a previous time.

This was not enough to convert Ms Le Pen’s voters.

Her militants, like any other politically inclined group, support her for a number of reasons. One of them, Mr Macron could never break through: employment.

Ms Le Pen, similarly to UKIP’s Nigel Farage, has maintained that the reason employment is so hard to come by in France is due to immigrants and refugees ‘invading’ the country and taking the menial tasks the French would be happy to do, only for a better wage.

The head of the FN is famed for saying that immigration is the overturning of a population, basing her entire campaign on the disdain of another culture on her territory.

Mr Macron’s employment policies include revoking benefits for a job-seeker having turned down two offers of employment. Ms Le Pen, on the other hand, blames “savage” globalisation for the lack of offers. This rhetoric knocks Macron down in her voters’ minds, due to his previous career as a banker.

Neither candidate is seen as favourable to the majority of French voters.

To add fuel to this political fire, two-thirds of militants for the extreme left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon have declared in polls leading up to tonight’s election, that they will either abstain or vote for someone other than Emmanuel Macron.

A concerning verdict, considering Le Pen militants would not miss their chance to propel their underdog candidate to the Elysee Palace.

Reassuringly, today’s trending tweet, third behind #Avoté (“has voted”) and #participation, is a reassuring #JeVoteElleDegage (“I’m voting, she’s out of here”)

Readers of Brig may wonder, what about feminism? Simply put, Macron has shown himself a feminist, supporting a better culture in favour of women in the workplace. Meanwhile, Le Pen has done very little in the name of feminism, if only to say years ago that – by some stroke of biological luck – she had had three children in the space of one year and had carried on working as a barrister.

Indeed, the FN leader had one child followed by twins, all in the space of 12 months, and believed this made her a symbol for women.

Her social values seem to align with those of Republican candidate Francois Fillon, knocked out of the race for embezzlement. They have both opposed same-sex marriage and endorse strong Catholic values in a secular country.

As you read this, the French are voting, with my father soon heading to our local voting office (“bureau de vote”) and casting two ballots – one on my behalf. With my writing this article and being in Scotland, I’m sure you can guess my political stance this round.

The beauty of the French vote is that it is strictly confidential and one should not be pressured into revealing their choice. This should encourage those who are still unsure to cast a vote of purpose for someone who will not send the country sinking into protectionism within the next five years. Alternatively, they could cast a vote of conviction and protest the way things are currently run. This could make for some irreversible change, however.

Polling stations will be closing at 19h00 (18h00 UK time). Results should be announced at 19h00 UK time. 

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