Since November the world has been pretty focused on American politics but it's important to know that whilst Trump has been getting cosy in The White House the French President Francois Hollande is leaving his post due to high disproval ratings. The election which has just starting the campaigning is a short one in comparison to both American, Canadian and British elections all of which recently took place and had a big impact on travellers, locals and economics respectively. While I could prattle on about all of the intricacies of politics I've compiled the important factors of the election and what it could mean for travellers.
Front National - Marine Le Pen
There are eleven candidates with five major contenders for the role who I'll focus on for the sake of brevity.
The first is Marine Le Pen with the Front National (FN). Le Pen's party is historically far right as it remains today with strong anti-European Union ideals and similar immigration policies, specifically for Muslims. She is also a favourite to win and in previous national elections was close to doing so, beating Francois Hollande but not Nicolas Sarkozy. In the past, Le Pen's father and FN's party founder has expressed Nazi rhetoric a multitude of times however Marine Le Pen is more focused upon anti-Islam propaganda as the country has a strong history of this and with recent attacks from ISIS it has only grown stronger.
A win for the FN could affect travellers in a wide variety but the major impact would be "Frexit" as Le Pen is determined to leave the European Union. Now not that trading deals aren't important, because they are, that would actually mean a lot more for a traveller than a change in the worth of the Euro like we saw with the drop in the Pound Sterling after Brexit. It could mean that France would leave the Schengen Zone altogether as Le Pen's policies promise. If you're not aware of what the Schengen Zone is you should be aware that it is essentially a collection of European countries allowing for free travel within and around which allows non-Europeans and Europeans alike to travel through Europe without passport checks at borders and a lot of things that really just make travelling so much simpler. So if you're planning a Europe trip, be sure that you won't overstay three months in the Schengen Zone or else you could be in a world of trouble when you go to France.
Another big proposition Le Pen has made is to get rid of the Euro altogether. This would be after a referendum if elected but if this goes through it would not only affect travel in France but elsewhere because France and Germany are essentially the two countries which have carried the Euro to the strength that it is and has been even through the most recent recession. So while things in Europe might get cheaper for those of us from North America and elsewhere it will be more difficult. Who knows if this would bring back the Franc or not but it is certainly a risk that travellers should be aware of.
Most important, however, is the fact that Front National is a particularly racist party. If you happen to be Muslim (particularly if you wear Hijab) this will increase your risk of assault from members of the public although no "Muslim ban" has been suggested from Le Pen a la Trump as of yet.
Les Républicains - Francois Fillon
Similar to FN there is Les Républicains (LR) whose party leader is Francois Fillon who has clearly expressed similar anti-Schengen sentimentalities but not nearly as extreme as there is a proposition to rework the agreements rather than remove it altogether. However, he is not quite as Islamphobic as Le Pen seems to be. Fillon is more homophobic. So either way, minorities are pretty much not happy with either choice. Although Fillon has not put a policy against France's legalization of marriage equality LR has suggested to change adoption policies for gay and lesbian couples.
LR and FN differentiate with Fillon's pro-EU policies which for the most part wouldn't affect travellers only in that the risk of having to change from the Euro would be non-existant.
Francois Fillon is, however, a supporter of President Putin and would like to strengthen ties between France and Russia and remove sanctions against Russia after all that has happened in Crimea. What this could mean for travellers is more risk in Ukraine as at the moment the UN is working against the Kremlin.
En Marche! - Emmanuel Macron
En Marche! (EM) is the newest party, founded in 2016 by Emmanuel Macron who was the Minister for Economy under President Hollande. Macron wishes EM to be trans-partisan and more progressive than the other parties, whether they are Left or Right. This means that while one may be more fiscally conservative they may be socially liberal which is quite common around the world making En Marche! quite attractive to younger voters.
It seems that Macron intends on riding this wave of millennial attention by giving eighteen year old's a culture pass which would more or less not affect a backpacker unless they happened to be a French backpacker interested in seeing and doing more in their own country - which I firmly suggest they do. We should all see more of our own countries. Moving on, Macron also wants to improve transportation which will only benefit travellers because many local trains are quite old and are due for repairs so this will make seeing more of France easier and better in the long run for those of you with a Interail or Eurail pass.
Macron intends for France to be as secular as possible in public life. However, he has not suggested a veil ban like many party leaders which would allow for more ease for Muslim travellers and locals.
Parti Socialiste - Benoit Hamon
Thought to be the French Jeremy Corbyn there is Benoit Hamon to lead the Parti Socialiste (PS). As you can tell they are a left aligned political party with President Hollande being the currently leader and to be replaced by Benoit Hamon. As Hollande's approval rate is under 5% it's unlikely that Hamon will become the President of France thanks to his predecessor but he does have some interesting policies to discuss.
For many young backpackers leaving Amsterdam it's may be hard to be without good ol' weed. So you may be happy to hear that Hamon wishes to legalize cannabis which would take time to do similar to Canada's issues legalizing pot but it would come under Hamon's presidency. Not much else would affect travellers under PS's current policies.
La France Insoumise - Jean-Luc Melechon
Finally there is Jean-Luc Melechon running for President under La France Insoumise (FI) which is a fairly new party just formed in 2016 a month before En Marche!. Increasing in popularity Melechon is an unexpected twist in the polls but with a few weeks left before the votes are taken and counted there is a lot to do still for FI.
In truth, aside from making France a greener country there will be no foreseeable way in which a Melechon presidency could affect a traveller at this moment as all his policies would leave foreign travellers unaffected. However for French nationals under-25 you would have to take 9 months off of possible travel to serve in the military as drafting which is a lot considering how military friendly France is already.
With all this in now laid out for you, Bon Voyage!