Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, fasten your seat belts. If you’re paying attention to the French presidential election (and you should be!), you’re in a for a bumpy two-week campaign.
The two presidential finalists selected by French voters this weekend are both mavericks, but the similarities stop there. One, is a former tax inspector turned Rothschild investment banker; the other, an outspoken European Union representative leading a campaign against that very organization.
Both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen ran as outsiders and while the outcome of their run-off isn’t a foregone conclusion, their selection represents a rejection of France’s traditional governing parties, the Socialists and the Republicans.
And both candidates are easily more colorful than experienced in politics.
EMMANUEL (Jean Marie Frederique) MACRON, EN MARCHE! Movement
At 39, Macron would become the youngest French president ever.
A former tax inspector who was most recently the country’s Economic Minster, Macron served two years in various cabinet posts (including Minister of the Digital and the Innovation) under President Hollande before resigning from the government and setting up his own political movement, En Marche! and running as an independent.
The telegenic self-described ‘liberal’ is pro-Europe and admiringly pro-America. His meteoric rise has been complete with Obama-like stylings (he received a call from former President Obama last Thursday) and certain key political aides schooled in Washington politics. Macron promises to keep France in the European Union and NATO and, essentially, to Make France Great Again economically.
His personal life however is considerably more fascinating than his political platform.
Macron was only 14 when he encountered Brigitte Trogneux, the mother of a high school classmate. The heiress of an Amiens chocolate fortune, and now grandmother of seven, Trogneux is 24 years older than Macron.
She was teaching French at the Jesuit high school he attended when they met and she encouraged him to audition for the drama group she coached. He played a scarecrow, stole the show—and her heart. “He was incredible onstage,” she told France 3 television last November.
When Macron left Amiens to continue his studies in Paris, Trogneux followed, leaving her husband and three children behind to be with the young student. The couple married in 2007, and have no children together.
She’s “determined, she’s a woman who knows where she’s going,” suggests Paris-Match reporter Caroline Piagozzi. Trogneux and Macron, “finish each others sentences.”
(Marion Anne Perrine) ‘MARINE’ LE PEN, 48, FRONT NATIONALE
Le Pen succeded her father, former paratrooper Jean Marie Le Pen as head of the right-wing FN, leading it to wider acceptability among primarily rural voters tired of politics as usual.
She is decidedly unusual and admittedly, the best-known woman politician in France since Joan of Arc.
An extremely sharp attorney, Le Pen has a fracturous political past, feuding publically with her family before expelling her father from the party he founded.
She maintains a hate-love-hate relationship with the European Union as well. Her service as a Parliamentary deputy — which comes with an immunity card — is her major political asset. But she has been condemned by the body itself for “violent incitement” and is presently contesting charges she has used Parliamentary funds to pay certain key campaign advisors during the current election.
During her campaign, Le Pen pledged to lead France out of Europe, restore the franc as the national currency, deport all suspected terrorists, put a hold on all forms of immigration, close all mosques and make France Great Again. Often accused of pandering to racist, Fascist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic elements within the electorate, she is rally-savvy and her campaign style is doggedly impressive.
Last Friday, President Trump offered support for Le Pen. While holding back an actual endorsement, Trump told AP she was the “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
Le Pen has an equally intriguing, though circumspect, personal life. Twice married and divorced, the mother of three has reportedly been in a significant relationship with a political ally since 2009.
One other note: amid an extremely acrimonious divorce in 1987, her mother Pierrette posed as a French maid in extremely nude photos for Playboy.
Vive la France!