Apr 21, 2017

How Trump and Brexit could predict the French elections

Michel Euler / AP

With the Islamic State claiming responsibility for the shooting death of a policeman on Paris' iconic Champs-Élysées just ahead of Sunday's first-round French elections, social media and commentators see a change in the voting atmosphere that could benefit the far-right populist Marine Le Pen.

Why it matters: If she won the runoff May 7, it would be a seismic manifestation of the global populist and nationalist trends that propelled Trump and the Brexit.

On the Twitters: "Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!" Trump tweeted this morning.

Axios' Shane Savitsky says she could win, and notes she has promised a referendum to leave the EU:

  • "If Trump's victory taught us anything, it should be that Le Pen certainly might win the French presidency. But Trump taught us something else — talking the talk is easy, but following through once in power can be much harder. Le Pen's call to destroy the 'anti-democratic monster' of the EU works well as a sound bite, but implementing it won't be easy."
  • For one thing ... Frexit would be more difficult than Le Pen lets on because France's participation in the EU is codified in its constitution.

Axios' Steve LeVine, a longtime foreign correspondent for the big papers, sees a "better than 50-50 chance" LePen goes all the way, based partly on the "rule of threes" following the upset victories for Trump and Brexit. Steve emails me:

  • A wild card: "The first round is a tight race among four candidates, and one of them — Jean-Luc Mélenchon — is every bit [the firebrand] as Le Pen, only from the far left. It's conceivable that the second round will pit [them] against one another. Like Le Pen, Mélenchon threatens to abandon the euro — which would likely lead to a collapse of the unifying monetary union. In addition, Mélenchon vows to quit NATO, the IMF and the World Trade Organization."
  • The takeaway: "These positions are why the French election ultimately is more important to the U.S. than Brexit."

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