French Parties Unite to Defeat Marine Le Pen

“Not since World War II has the anti-immigrant far right been closer to gaining power in France. With her second-place finish on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years,” the New York Times reports.

“But that remarkable accomplishment is so alarming to so many in France that as soon as the preliminary results were announced at 8:01 p.m., virtually all of her major opponents in the 11-person race called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They implored their supporters to vote for the candidate projected to come out on top on Sunday, the centrist, pro-European Union former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a political novice and outsider.”

French Voters Buck the Establishment

“In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday chose Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to go to a runoff to determine the next president, official returns showed. One is a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders, but with starkly different visions for the country,” the New York Times reports.

“The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path in an election that could also decide the future of the European Union.”

Politico: “If polls conducted before the first round of voting Sunday prove true, Macron will likely be the next president, an outcome that would come as a relief to both bureaucrats in Brussels and international investors.”

French Voters Head to the Polls

“French voters go to the polls on Sunday in the first round of a presidential election that to the very end has brought little consensus or comfort and only one certainty: the result will be a political upheaval, whoever wins,” The Guardian reports.

“Even as they walk into their bureau de vote, many will still be undecided, faced with paper slips for an unprecedented 11 candidates, only four of them thought to be serious contenders for the Elysée palace. There is a nail-biting sense that anything could happen.”

FiveThirtyEight: “The top two finishers will proceed to a runoff election unless the top vote-getter receives more than 50 percent of the vote, in which case he or she wins outright. But if the polls are to be believed, that’s not going to happen. Instead, candidates representing the far right, far left, center and center-right all have a shot at securing one of the two spots in the runoff on May 7.”

“In short, the French presidential election is a mess.”

French Social Media Flooded with Fake News

“French voters have been deluged with fake news stories on their social media feeds ahead of the country’s presidential election, many from sources ‘exposed to Russian influence,'” The Independent reports.

“Researchers from Oxford University found up to a quarter of the political links shared on Twitter in France were based on misinformation. They were identified as deliberately false and expressed ‘ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial’ views with logical flaws and opinions presented as facts.”

Trump Stays Quiet on French Election

“As a candidate, Donald Trump wasn’t shy about predicting the success of Brexit, the 2016 referendum that triggered Britain’s departure from the European Union and rocked the Continent’s politics,” Politico reports.

“But with Europe on the verge of another possible earthquake, President Trump has held his tongue about France’s upcoming presidential vote, surprising some who worried that he or his senior strategist, Steve Bannon, might somehow work to boost the controversial nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen.”

Update: Trump tweets: “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”

A Communist Soars In French Election Polls

Washington Post: “In the latest plot twist in France’s highly contentious presidential election, Jean Luc Mélenchon — an outspoken 65-year-old leftist who often appears on the campaign trail via hologram and who has pitched his proposal to nationalize France’s biggest banks and renegotiate its relationship with the European Union via free Internet games and YouTube videos — is now soaring in the polls. With less than two weeks before the election, his meteoric and unexpected rise is already sending jitters through financial markets and shock waves through an increasingly anxious electorate.”

“The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power.”

How the French Vote Could Wreck the European Union

The Economist: “The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.

“The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could revitalise the European Union, or wreck it.”

French President Slams Trump for Paris Remarks

French President Francois Hollande fired back at Donald Trump after the U.S. president remarked in a speech that a friend thought “Paris is no longer Paris” after attacks by Islamist militants, Reuters reports.

Said Hollande: “There is terrorism and we must fight it together. I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn’t do it with the United States and I’m urging the U.S. president not to do it with France.”

He then added: “I won’t make comparisons but here, people don’t have access to guns. Here, you don’t have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy.”

Le Pen Gains In French Polls

A new OpinionWay poll in France finds that first-round support for anti-euro candidate Marine Le Pen rose one percentage point to 27%, with Emmanuel Macron and Francois Fillon unchanged at 20% each.

“While no surveys so far have shown Le Pen even close to a victory in May’s run-off, she’s quickly narrowing the gap to her rivals. OpinionWay showed Macron would defeat Le Pen by 58 percent to 42 percent in the second round. His advantage has halved in less than two weeks.”

French Dual Citizens Would Give Up U.S., Israeli Passports

Haaretz: “Le Pen, a leading contender in the upcoming French presidential contest, told France 2 TV that if elected, she will not allow French citizens to hold on to any citizenship in a non-European country. When asked specifically about Israel and Jews, who form a large community in France, the Front National party leader responded: ‘Israel isn’t a member of the European Union, and doesn’t consider itself as such,’ and therefore a dual French-Israeli citizenship will not be allowed.”

“Le Pen said that the ban will also apply to citizens of the U.S. and North African countries, but that dual citizens of the EU and of Russia, which she said is part of she termed the ‘Europe of nations,’ will be exempted.”

Trump Has Awkward Call with French President

President Trump spent much of a recent phone call with French President Francois Hollande “veering off into rants about the U.S. getting shaken down by other countries,” Politico reports.

Said one official: “It was a difficult conversation, because he talks like he’s speaking publicly. It’s not the usual way heads of state speak to each other. He speaks with slogans and the conversation was not completely organized.”

The Week: Aides and staffers are reportedly leaking about Trump out of genuine alarm.