"It is way more important than you might realize," explains John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, in a recent primer on France's nearing election. The general consensus among pundits and analysts? The future of the European Union (EU) is at stake. So, yeah, if there was one upcoming election to watch, it's certainly France's, considering - as Oliver points out - multiple candidates support a "French Brexit." The first round of the election, which will select the top two candidates out of an 18-person pool, will take place on April 23; the top two candidates will then face off on May 7.
Much like the American election, the French presidential candidates represent how polarized public opinion has become. One of the leading candidates, Marine Le Pen of the National Front party, is politically akin to our very own President Donald Trump. The far-right leader has some concerning policy proposals; she's anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and would exit the EU. Le Pen is projecting to be neck and neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, a former banker whose positions are self-described as "neither left nor right."
On the other side of the spectrum is Benoit Hamon, who has been dubbed France's Bernie Sanders. Hamon has run a progressive policy of providing a universal basic income, boosting unemployment, and weaning France off fossil fuels. Another left contender is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the left party candidate and former Socialist party member that presently holds power. Mélenchon's platform is also revolutionary; one of his proposals is the creation of a "Sixth Republic" to completely restructure France's presidential system and change the voting age to 16.
As you've probably deduced, this election is a complex showdown of opposing ideologies. One emerging theme, which Oliver stresses, is that Le Pen's party has already popularized the nationalist zeal sweeping across the world.
"A potentially destabilizing populist campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric who rages against the elite, despite having a powerful father and inherited wealth, even as all the experts reassure us that there's no way this could possibly happen," Oliver eerily quips.
Doesn't sound familiar at all, does it?