French election is underway and tension is high after recent Terrorist Attack
Voting has begun in what is a tense election in France. It will be the first step for the candidates looking to replace current French President Francois Hollande (who is not running for reelection). This round will nominate the top two candidates who will run in a runoff on May 7.
The already-tight race became even more uncertain after a terrorist attack three days prior.
Thursday night, a gunman opened fire on police officers, killing one and injuring another two. The gunman fled and was killed by a police officer in a shootout that injured a foreign tourist. Current French President Francois Hollande said the shooting was “likely terrorist-related” and the Islamic State claimed credit after the attack.
The Top Four Candidates
The latest polls show four close contenders in a large field. Neck and neck in the top tier are Emmanuel Macron – Hollande’s center-left successor in the Socialist party – and Marine Le Pen of French’s far-right National Front party.
In a Opinionway-Orpi’s daily poll released Thursday (before the terrorist attack) Macron showed a slight edge with 23 percent and Le Pen with 22 percent. In another poll, released on the same day, Macron got 25 percent to Le Pen’s 22 percent.
In the second tier of contenders, center-right candidate François Fillon got 20 percent from the Opinionway-Orpi’s daily poll and far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon got 19 percent support. In recent weeks Mélenchon has shown a flurry of support and his rise in the polls has left his far-left rival Benoît Hamon, who got 8 percent.
America Weighs In
After months of keeping distance, American politicians have weighed into the elections, with liberal politicians consolidating support behind Macron, and President Donald Trump wading into the fray.
First, when meeting with with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni Thursday, Trump didn’t give an endorsement, but instead, dodged a question about the French vote, responding in general terms about the value of Europe.
“A strong Europe is very, very important to me,” Trump said. “We want to see it. We will help it be strong, and it’s very much to everybody’s advantage.”
On Friday morning, Trump continued his commentary on the election via Twitter, addressing the terrorist attack.
“Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s preference has been for the far-right Le Pen, who he met with during the transition at Trump Tower following the election.
The flurry of commentary by the sitting president comes hours after it was reported that former President Barack Obama gave a call to Macron, although, as his spokesperson pointed out, it wasn’t a formal endorsement.
“An endorsement was not the purpose of the call,” said spokesman Kevin Lewis, adding that he is committed to France being “a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world.”
Americans are certainly no strangers to last-minute twists and turns, but the stakes here are high as this could mean a potential break from the European Union for France. Stay tuned for more analysis and incoming results.
By Steven Klett