France's Election Could Have A Major Impact On The EU

by Morgan Brinlee
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French voters head to the polls Sunday to elect a new president in an increasingly tight election many say stands to influence not only the future of France, but also that of the European Union. But just how likely is it that France will follow in Britain's footsteps and bid "au revoir" to the 28-member bloc? With two of the race's four front-runners urging the country to leave the European Union, the chance of a "Frexit" will likely depend heavily on who wins Sunday's election.

While a French exit from the European Union would certainly be no easy task – it would require changing the French Constitution, which states "the Republic shall participate in the European Union" – it's not a completely impossible undertaking should a euroskeptic candidate win the presidential election.

Both hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and far-right wing Nationalist Front candidate Marine Le Pen have called for France to leave the European Union. But while Mélenchon and Le Pen have both called for renegotiating the country's role with the European Union (or leaving if that's not possible), they have widely different views on other issues. Mélenchon has criticized the European Union's financial policies and called for France to renegotiate austerity measures with the bloc. Le Pen has argued France needs to ditch the European Union and crackdown on immigration in order to secure itself as a sovereign state and and protect its Judeo-Christian heritage.

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Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon, however, have both campaigned on pro-EU platforms, urging unity and reform within the European Union. Either of their victories would likely squash any chance of France moving forward on a Frexit referendum.

Although polling shows the election is too close to call at this point in time, Macron and Le Pen appear neck-and-neck in leading the field of 11 candidates. A Elabe poll released Friday showed Macron winning the first round of voting with 24 percent of the votes, followed by Le Pen with 21.5 percent, Fillon with 20 percent, and Mélenchon with 19.5 percent.

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Given the expansive field of candidates on the ballot this Sunday, France's presidential election is expected to require a second run-off election. Under French law, if no candidate wins more than half of the votes, the two candidates who earned the most votes will run against each other in a run-off election early next month. None of the four front runners are expected to win the required majority needed to secure the presidency in just one round of voting.