On Sunday, the French population will head to the polls to cast their vote in the final round of the presidential election. Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Marine Le Pen are from establishment parties, and the election is set to be one of the most extraordinary the country has ever seen.
Who are the candidates?
Forty-eight-year-old former lawyer Marine Le Pen has been the leader of the Front National since 2011. Her father founded the far-right party in 1972, but was expelled by his daughter in 2015, following his remarks that the Nazi gas chambers were a ‘detail of history’.
Indeed, Marine has attempted to modernise the party and steer it away from its extreme, anti-Semitic wing. Whilst her views are more liberal than those of her father's, nationalism remains the core of her politics, believing that immigration, multi-culturalism, and supra-national authorities (particularly the EU) are bad for the country.
At thirty-nine years old, if Emmanuel Macron wins, he will be the youngest ever French president. The former banker served in Francois Hollande’s socialist government as Economy Minister. In April last year, Macron created a new, centrist, party, En Marche. Initially mocked by those in the establishment parties, En Marche has proved to be successful, gaining 200,000 members in just one year.
What are their policies?
Le Pen’s policies focus on social issues and justice. Her key policies include:
Keeping the 35-hour working week.
Fix the retirement age at 60.
Give priority to French nationals when allocating social housing.
15,000 new police officers and 40,000 new prison places.
Cut legal immigration down to 10,000 a year.
Automatically expel any undocumented immigrants.
Referendum on membership of the EU.
Conversely, Emmanuel Macron takes a more pro-business approach, with policies including:
£43bn investment plan, focusing on job-training, the renewable energy sector, infrastructure, and modernisation.
Cut corporation tax from 33% to 25%.
Keep the legal 35-hour week, but allow companies to negotiate real working hours.
10,000 new police officers and 15,000 new prison places.
Reduce unemployment rate from its current rate, 9.7%, to 7%.
€500 (£422) ‘culture pass’ for 18 year-olds, to spend on tickets and admissions.
Ban mobile phone use in schools for under-15 year-olds.
What do the polls say?
In the first round of voting, there was little difference in the vote share, with Macron gaining 24% of the votes, and Le Pen following closely behind with 21.3%.
However, as we approach the final election, it appears Macron has gained a significant, consistent lead over Le Pen.
It also appears that Macron's strongest areas of support are Paris, and along the west of France, whilst Le Pen's strongholds are in the north east and south.
Whilst polls have been defeated in many of last year's elections, it is clear that at the moment Macron has more backing than his far-right rival.