Campaigning for France’s presidential election began this week with three of the leading candidates addressing supporters in Lyon.
The independent and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who calls his movement Let’s Go!, pulled a crowd of around ten thousand.
If the polls are to be trusted, he’s predicted to win the race, but he’s also already had to fend off rumours that he’s in a relationship outside of his marriage and it’s worth noting that an independent has never won the presidency before.
Only two years ago Macron was almost unknown but his rise in popularity has been rapid.
He’s pro-EU, as a former economy minister he’s pro-business, and he appeals to the young because he’s progressive on social issues.
“Convinced European that I am, it warms my heart to hear a presidential candidate defend the European project with so much pride and courage,” one of his supporter told Euronews.
Another independent, the hard left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon also popped up in Paris at the same time as he did in Lyon, in the form of a spectacular hologram.
His supporters chanted “Resistance” – the person they’re mainly resisting is National Front leader Marine Le Pen who is expected to win in the first round.
Melenchon has positioned himself as Le Pen’s arch rival but the two in fact overlap in that they’re both sceptical of the EU and globalisation.
His supporters also fed up with the feeble state of the economy.
“I still don’t know if I’m going to vote for Melenchon but the idea that speaks the most to me is the end of austerity, because politics is not a question of rules, it’s a question of choices,” one said.
And then there’s Le Pen, who is surfing a wave of populism that has delivered two political earthquakes: Brexit and a victory for Donald Trump. In confident mood, she told a crowd of around 4000 supporters that “the impossible is now possible.”
“Why Marine? You have seen the shit we are in now, she is the only one that can save France, we have 70 years of left and right politics that have led us to misery,” one of her supporters in his sixties said.
Le Pen denounces globalisation and promises a referendum on membership of the EU if the single currency is not ditched and the member states not given control of their borders.
France is facing uncertain times and a presidential race that is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable ever, yet her nationalist message is resonating and the fact remains, she is more popular than any other candidate.