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France's Presidential Election: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Charles A. Kupchan, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
April 23, 2012

Following the first round of France's presidential election, CFR's Charles A. Kupchan identifies three things to keep an eye on as French voters prepare to vote in the runoff between incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, scheduled for May 6:

  • Will Sarkozy attract the large block of voters that supported conservative Marine Le Pen in the first round? "The answer is probably: not in sufficient numbers to carry him through as the victor," Kupchan says. Hollande and Sarkozy will soon go head-to-head in a televised debate, which will be important, but at least for now, Hollande remains the favorite to win, he says.
  • Will a Hollande win result in increased transatlantic strain? Kupchan says this is unlikely. Whether Hollande or Sarkozy wins the election, "there will be pressure to keep France in lockstep with NATO allies, particularly with the Chicago NATO summit looming at the end of May," he argues.
  • What will the French elections mean for the eurozone crisis? If Hollande wins the election, Kupchan identifies two potential outcomes: "one is that [German President Angela] Merkel is able to pressure Hollande back into the same mold as Sarkozy, and that is generally doing what he is told from Berlin. The other is that Hollande is able to ally with others who want to see more stimulus and less austerity." A potential rift between Merkel and Hollande could result in a political crisis within the EU, which could in turn lead to a "financial crisis on the other side of the Atlantic that could wash to this side of the Atlantic, just as our presidential election gets into full swing," Kupchan cautions.

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