On Sunday, French voters will decide who will be their next president in the second – and final – round of a critical election. The two candidates – both fringe in French politics – are pro-business, centrist Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigrant, far-right Marine Le Pen. Cornell University experts comment on this race and how the winner may affect economic and labor policy.
Mona Krewel, assistant professor of government at Cornell University, is an expert on elections and campaigning in Europe and author of the recently published book “Modernization of German Election Campaigns?” She says Emmanuel Macron will need more than a victory on Sunday’s elections to govern effectively.
“Macron’s distinct lead in the polls over Marine Le Pen has been relatively stable since the first round of the election eleven days ago. Looking at pooled data from all major polling houses I expect him to come out around 60 percent.
“While Macron overall should be able to attract a higher spectrum of voters, I expect Le Pen to win over at least some of Fillon’s first-round voters, as their motives to vote for François Fillon have been very similar to those of Le Pen’s voters. Le Pen also campaigned heavily on these conservative voters over the last few days. Plagiarizing Fillon’s speech was just the tip of the iceberg to convince Les Républicains’ supporters.
“However, the story does not end on Sunday. The parliamentary elections about one month later will have a huge impact on the future of the country as well as the future of the newly elected French president. Having his own majority in the National Assembly will be crucial for Macron’s ambitious economic reform plans, which cannot be realized if France will have to face another paralyzing period of divided government (cohabitation).”
Lowell Turner, professor of international and comparative labor at Cornell University, studies the politics of economic inequality and labor relations in Europe and the U.S. Turner says the current trend towards increasing labor flexibility will not change regardless of who wins on Sunday.
“For employment, competitiveness and growth, Macron has pushed for labor law reform, loosened regulations on employers, more support for enterprise. Le Pen also supports increasing labor flexibility for employers but in a context of trade and immigration protection, more secure borders behind which jobs can be created, so that French business and labor can be revitalized. Although contested and limited by French unions, this trend towards increasing labor flexibility is likely to continue under either candidate.
“As always, the French labor movement includes several sometimes contending, sometimes collaborating union confederations.
“It is important to emphasize that while recent press reports have described divisions in the French labor movement – including contending May 1 demonstrations – there is no support for Le Pen among the leadership of French unions. Some, including both the CGT and the CFDT, urge their members to vote for Macron in spite of differences on labor law reform; others don’t want to be pro-Macron and instead emphasize their opposition to Le Pen.”