The world is watching the French elections to see if the populist, protectionist, anti-globalization trend in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) is gaining ground in other countries.
Donald Trump won in the US on a staunchly “America First” and anti-immigration campaign line. The UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland then voted to exit from the European Union in “Brexit.” In the French election, the campaign of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen was closely followed as it was in the same fiercely nationalist and separatist tradition as that of Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK.
At the end of the first round of voting last Monday, centrist and pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron led with 23.9 percent of the vote. Le Pen was a close second with 21.4 percent. The candidates of the mainstream political parties Socialists and Republicans as well as the Communists were left far behind.
The top two candidates – Macron and Le Pen – will now run in the next phase of the French elections. With only two candidates, whoever wins will have a majority of the votes cast. The losing parties – the Republicans, Socialists, and Communists – are now realigning their forces behind either Macron or Le Pen.
Aside from the French elections being closely watched by the world to see if it continues the populist movement that emerged with Trump’s election in the US and Britain’s exit from the European Union, it should be followed by our own Filipino leaders as a great example of the play of basic issues in an election – rather than the largely personal contest that Philippine elections have become.
Parties don’t really matter in Philippine elections. They are temporary groupings and alliances without any real party philosophies or ideologies. People vote instead for personalities, for individual candidates. We look forward to the day when political parties will play bigger roles in Philippine elections so that the government will be run by officials with allied views of good governance.
One other point may be noted in the French election – the holding of a run-off election between the top two contenders so that the final victor will have a majority vote. The Philippines has not had a majority vote-winning president in the last 25 years. With so many presidential candidates running in our multi-party elections, they have always split the votes so that none ever got a majority of 50 percent.