Biggest contenders in the upcoming presidential elections in France
Following incumbent President Francois Hollande’s decision not to run for a second term due to his unpopularity, several candidates have launched campaigns vying for the attention of french voters in the April presidential elections.
Francois Fillon, the most popular candidate in the race is backed by the centre-right republicans.
Other strong contenders are Manuel Valls, Emmanuel Macron, Francois Bayrou (who is keeping French voters in suspense), and radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon.
If none of the candidates wins an outright majority, there will be a run-off vote between the two leading candidates two weeks later on 7 May.
Who will win the French elections?
Francois Fillon, The Republicans
Fillon served as Prime Minister of France from 2007-2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration.
His win as flag bearer for the centre-right party shocked pundits as he was a lesser-known candidate than his opponents Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, which worked to his advantage.
Fillon has enjoyed support from French conservatives despite his obvious lack of charisma. They would rather have a neoliberal who is tougher on identity politics than a charismatic candidate.
His campaign promises include fiscal conservatism, cutting half a million public sector jobs, cutting half a million public sector jobs, discarding 35-hour work weeks and removing the wealth tax. His foreign policy plans are to engage with Russia by lifting the EU sanctions and help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to defeat the Islamic State.
He wants tougher policies on jihadists returning from the wars in Iraq or Syria, by stripping them off their citizenship, and will require parents receiving social allowances agree to a “parental responsibility contract,” to tackle children’s absenteeism or behaviour “disrespectful of the values of the French republic.
Manuel Valls, Socialist Party
Former French Prime Minister who resigned when he announced his candidacy, has lead isolating economic reforms. He pledged not to revise France’s 35-hour work week or its labour laws, and to reject politics of austerity.
Valls and his party rivals are enthusiastic about their chances following French President Francois Hollande’s decision not to seek a second term.
Hollande’s long time confidant, Manuel Valls was credited as the person who advised him not to run due to his dwindling popularity which was stuck at 4 percent for many weeks.
Valls was born in Barcelona in 1962. He moved to France as a teenager and witnessed his political career take a positive trajectory by starting out as a researcher in the parliament, being elected as the Mayor of Evry in 2001, and his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister in 2014.
Marine Le Pen, National Front
Marine Le Pen is a strong advocate of redefining the image of the National Front Party since taking over its leadership in 2011. She attempted to shake off its extremist image created by the founder of the party, convicted racist, anti-semite and her grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Analysts have likened her to US President Donald Trump, due to her anti-immigration policies, exiting the EU, prioritizing French citizens for jobs and housing, and strengthening security efforts by upping police numbers.
Her political career has faced challenges from years of fighting and losing parliamentary elections in France, before getting elected to the European parliament in 2004, representing North-West France.
Support for Le Pen has surged following a series of Isis-inspired attacks in France and immigration fueled by the refugee crisis. Opinion polls frequently show her winning or coming second in the first round of the presidential elections to be held in April.
Emmanuel Macron, Independent
Former economic adviser to President Francois Hollande and economy minister Emmanuel Macron, is proving to be a firebrand by quickly gaining on Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen in opinion polls.
He is among the youngest candidates at 38.
He resigned from Hollande’s government on 30 August to pursue his presidential bid.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, Left Party
Former Socialist Minister and French hard-left Firebrand announced his presidency after sensing a possible opening in the race after the centre-left experienced dwindling support from their followers.
Melenchon made an unsuccessful bid for the French presidency in 2012, with the backing of the Communist party. However, his latest presidential bid was not taken with the backing of the Communists creating an uncertainty about how he will fund and organize his campaign.