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    Candidates for the 2017 presidential election (LtoR) Francois Fillon, former French Prime Minister, member of the Republicans and candidate of the French centre-right, Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the French far left Parti de Gauche, Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and Benoit Hamon of the French Socialist party (PS) pose before a debate organised by French private TV channel TF1 in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, France, March 20, 2017.

    How Europe 'Has Had a Major Effect' on French Voters

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    French Citizens Elect New President (48)
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    The outcome of the French election seems to be getting more and more difficult to predict. The rise in support for the left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon means there are now four candidates all within reach of making it through to the second round of voting.

    Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with the professor of politics and co-director at the Centre for Europe at Aston University, John Gaffney.

    According to Gaffney, the outcome of the vote could significantly impact the future of the EU.

    "The four candidates who are all kind of bunched up together have created the situation whereby nobody is quite sure anymore who is going to go through to the second round. They all have different views on how they want France to be in the future and that includes attitudes to Europe," the expert argued.

    At the same time, Gaffney noted that Europe has had "a major effect" upon the election campaign itself. In particular, the European question determined the political agendas of the main presidential candidates.

    "One can say that the only truly sort of pro-European is the centrist Macron. Even Fillon, who is also pro-European, much more wants to go back to a kind of Europe that used to exist, where France and Germany essentially run the show. He wants to actually create a political Europe that actually only involves the eurozone countries. So that the EU would be easier to control and French influence would be greater," Gaffney said.

    Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in turn, has actually been saying that he wants to get out of the EU, the expert recalled.

    "But as his popularity in the poll has risen, he kind of calmed down about that because he realized that although the French don't love Europe, they don't want to leave it. Therefore, he has become very, very ambivalent about his attitude to Europe," the expert noted.

    Another presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, who ran a whole campaign on leaving Europe also has realized that "it is a dangerous thing to go for," Gaffney stated.

    "This is because the French don't really want to leave. And therefore, she, too, has turned down her attitude to Europe although she doesn't like it, she wants to get out, she even wants to leave the euro and create a new franc," he argued. "So, Europe has had a major effect upon this campaign," the expert concluded.

    French voters are casting their ballots Sunday, and will choose among the 11 candidates registered for the first round of the election. The run-off between the top two contenders is scheduled for May 7.

    The four most prominent candidates are far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-left political movement La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) Jean-Luc Melenchon, the Republican Party's nominee Francois Fillon and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron.

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    French Citizens Elect New President (48)

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