All eyes are on France as the first round of its presidential election fast approaches. Unlike previous elections, the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties are lagging behind newer or more radical political movements in the polls, making it very difficult to predict who will occupy the Élysée Palace after May 7.
Candidates from 11 parties in all are competing in this election, presenting voters with a broad range of ideologies and plans for the country. Of particular interest to this blog are those candidates who, either directly or indirectly, oppose European integration.
Following a previous blog post on the Dutch election, this post identifies France’s eurosceptic candidates. Beyond helping inform French voters, it underscores the ideological diversity of euroscepticism.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Unsubmissive France (FI)
This political movement, formed in 2016, gathers a number of actors from the political far left. Environmentalists, socialists, communists, and others have joined the FI and its charismatic leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose fiery speeches have drawn immense crowds. Among the most eurosceptic positions the FI has on offer are to demand fundamental changes in the European Central Bank’s mandate, and doing away with the EU’s rules on fiscal governance (the Maastricht criteria). In the event of a negative response from Berlin or Brussels, a Mélenchon presidency would oppose France’s membership of the single currency.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan: France Arise (DLF)
Having first appeared as a separate current within the centre-right Republicans party (then the UMP, and RPR before that) of former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, DLF became a fully-fledged political party in 2008. Its leader, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, felt that Sarkozy had strayed too far from their party’s Gaullist roots (named after former president Charles de Gaulle, a known eurosceptic). Since 2008, Dupont-Aignan’s message of a strong, independent France freely collaborating with its neighbours has swayed a growing number of voters. As president, Dupont-Aignan would renegotiate EU treaties with the aim of removing any measures threatening France’s independence, such as the Schengen Area of free movement.
Marine Le Pen: National Front (FN)
Since the 1970s, an ever-present force in French politics has been the National Front. Originating as a political movement inheriting from monarchist, anti-communist, and pro-colonialist currents, the FN has since morphed into a sovereigntist, anti-immigration party under its current leader, Marine Le Pen. Strong results in municipal and EU parliamentary elections have helped establish the FN as a front-runner in the months leading up to the presidential election. Among its flagship policies, the FN wants to follow in the steps of the UK by offering a referendum on EU membership to the French people after renegotiating the terms of France’s membership.
François Asselineau: People’s Republican Union (UPR)
François Asselineau’s UPR has existed since 2007, but this year marks its first qualification for the presidential election. His movement is possibly France’s most eurosceptic, by virtue of his promise to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signaling France’s departure from the EU if he becomes president. Several parties intend to present French voters with a referendum on EU membership, but Asselineau has made clear his election would suffice to trigger Frexit.
Other parties have either explicitly called for an end to the EU in its current form, or implicitly undermine European integration by calling for rules differing drastically from those prescribed in Brussels. For example, Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle party) calls for an end to capitalism, for which she sees the EU as a vehicle; Phillippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party) sees a need to drastically raise minimum salaries, which would be harmonized across the Union; Jacques Cheminade (Solidarity and Progress party) and Jean Lasalle (Resist! party) want to replace the EU with more inter-state cooperation.
The state of French euroscepticism
Regardless of the outcome on May 7, it is clear that, as was the case during the 2005 European Constitutional referendum campaign, a large coalition is forming against European integration. According to polls, no single candidate is likely to convince a majority of French voters in the first round of the presidential election. This said, 8 out of 11 candidates believe either in leaving the EU, or fundamentally changing it, boding well for any future referendum on membership, and boding ill for Brussels.