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Will France Move Onward or Inward?

How Macron Stacks Up Against Le Pen in the Presidential Race

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or "Onwards!," in Paris, France, February 23, 2017. Christian Hartmann / Reuters

The French presidential elections of 2017 are the most remarkable in the Fifth Republic’s recent history. For the first time since Charles de Gaulle won the inaugural presidential race in 1965, no major party candidate will make it to the second (and definitive) round of voting, to be held on May 7. The two frontrunners are leaders of political parties that have never before participated in government at the national level.

Marine Le Pen has led the radical-right National Front since 2015, when she replaced her father after a short but bitter struggle. Since then, she has stabilized her position within the party while focusing on two issues: opposition to immigration and to the European Union. These issues have attracted loyal and growing electoral support, but the extreme positioning of the party has also limited its ability to attract voters from other political parties. Further, the National Front has had little success in

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