France is about to choose a new president, and it’s a decision that’s likely to have an effect around the world. Just like the 2016 U.S. election and the E.U. referendum in the U.K., this is a moment fraught with tension. The current president, Francois Hollande, has been deeply unpopular in his country for some time, leaving many eager for a dramatic change. With a far-right candidate looking likely to win a huge percentage of votes, France could be on the brink of its own Brexit or Trump-style upheaval. That would have ramifications for the rest of Europe, and the world. Or, as Cher puts it: “WE R SO FKD.”
There are five candidates in the running. Marine Le Pen is the leader of the Front National, a xenophobic and authoritarian party that seeks to place huge restrictions on immigration, and pull France out of the E.U. In 2016, she caused a stir when she unexpectedly emerged as the frontrunner in the polls. Her most serious opponent is currently Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who formed his own political party. Then there’s Republican Francois Fillon, Socialist Benoît Hamon, and “France’s Bernie Sanders,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
France will go to the polls twice: first, this Sunday April 23, to determine which two candidates have the most support. Then, on May 7, the final two will go head-to-head for the presidency. With reports showing that many voters are still very undecided on who to actually vote for, The FADER spoke to 11 French artists and creatives about why this election matters to them, and to the world at large.
1. Kiddy Smile, ballroom DJ and artist
I do not support Marine Le Pen, and I never will, but here are the reasons why I think Marine is so high in the polls. The Front National is a party that used to deny that the Holocaust existed, and said black people are inferior to others. But once Marine Le Pen kicked her father out of the party [in 2011], she rebranded it, and she’s done such a good job that even people of color think it’s okay to vote for her. I feel like people don’t really care about the foundations of Marine’s ideas, they’re just fed up with the current order of things.
Why are so many gay voters supporting Le Pen? Well, most outspoken gay people are white, and they only care about their own little problems, like gay marriage, or not being harassed in the streets. But they don’t care for black issues, or non-“white people issues.” Marine also made a really good move by having all of these gay people working for her — it was like a window to show white LGBTQ people that it’s okay to be for the Front National and LGBTQ if you don’t pick up on the fact that they are racist.
2. Joakim, producer/DJ
It’s no big news that there’s a global rise of nationalist populism, feeding on people’s growing frustrations and resentment. The Front National are the best at capitalizing on this anger. They almost managed to look like the sheep in wolf’s clothes and normalize a lot of their disgusting rhetoric.
I don’t know [who to vote for]. It seems like I’m not the only one; all the polls show people are still extremely undecided. Hamon has interesting and progressive ideas in his program. The problem is, his chances of winning the first round are very thin. Mélenchon is the most radical, but I can’t help but feel like his love of attention and power is stronger than his beliefs. Then there's Macron, who is kind of our Hillary Clinton. Yesterday I read that he said he didn’t believe France would/could ever be a multicultural country, which is problematic for me.
"Most outspoken gay people are white, and they only care about their own little problems. They don’t care for black issues." —Kiddy Smile
3. Louise Chen, DJ and promoter
The French situation is very specific. It is constantly championing the “Republican Ideal,” under which any person that emigrates to France should automatically speak French, in some cases even adopt a “French-Christian” name, and abandon the culture of their country of origin. In theory, this imagines that people can be free, equal, and brotherly. But in practice it just doesn’t work like that. Suburban ghettos are real, and people are discriminated against because of how they look or what their last name is. But we can’t even begin to talk about those inequality issues upfront because it would negate this Republican Ideal. This catch-22 situation has been recycling the same problems for the last 20 years, during which the Front National has been building support. It’s sad to say, but if Le Pen gets elected, I almost hope that a civil war breaks out, and that the French people will finally rebel and express themselves.
4. Julie Budet, member of Yelle
If Marine Le Pen wins, it would signal that we follow the dark flow of Brexit and Trump and this idea of dividing people. It would confirm fear has taken control. I will vote for the left-wing because I think people are more important than money, but I still haven’t decided which candidate. To French readers — open your minds to kindness, because nobody wants to live in a hateful world. Go vote for peace, love, and respect.
5. Chassol, pianist
All the election has revealed is fear. Some politicians take advantage of the fear of the people. They lie to people. These people are afraid and don’t know what to do, so they believe these politicians. [Politicians] don’t speak about culture at all, they don’t really speak about education. They only speak about religion, terrorism, economics over and over. This is all Marine Le Pen has done.
Personally as a black guy, no one tells me if they are voting for Marine Le Pen. I don’t know what they are thinking. I just know that they are angry. What I think is that I have to do my job in the best possible way. To write music, compose music, and perform music in the best possible manner. That is my way of participating.
“To resist fascism, you must learn about fascism, how it functions, how it spreads and how it maintains its grip.” —Maeril
6. Marie Shirine Yener (Maeril), illustrator
I remember seeing, in Michael Moore’s movie Where To Invade Next, German students absorbed in a classroom conversation about the Holocaust. The ability to recognize the role of Germany in it, to talk as a group about collective responsibility for such events, was impressive. In France, we talk about the Holocaust, but not as perpetrators. We evoke it as victims, and glorify our Resistance network, while forgetting that people who collaborated were French, too.
To resist fascism, you must learn about fascism, how it functions, how it spreads and how it maintains its grip. [If Le Pen won] it would make everyone stand up and fight. And through these next five years of chaos, maybe we can [develop] stronger bonding against hate. If I was to be teleported to a future where she is the president, I think I would be very glad to burn the whole thing down so we can rebuild a better place.
7. Betty, DJ (Rinse France)
Since Marine Le Pen assumed control of the Front National she developed a whole communication strategy to turn the party into something more "acceptable." People seem to have forgotten that it was founded in the ‘70s based on neo-fascist ideas, and that its ideology hasn't evolved much. [Their victory] would be a descent into hell for our country: closing of the borders, hardening of our academic institutions, restriction of individual liberties. I hope French people of all sides unite to block them.
8. Zoulikha Bouabdellah, visual artist
In France, we need social cohesion. Unfortunately, we are still affixing labels to each other: poor versus rich and so on. Personally, I do not think the French are racist. We certainly live in an intellectual crisis though, more than social or economic. Politicians are using immigrants as the perfect scapegoat. Convincing a category of people that their future as a great nation is compromised by the existence of others is dangerous. Marine Le Pen will not be the president. She is the opposite of France’s essence.
9. Adèle Labo, artist and activist
I think that unemployment, especially among young people, is the most important topic right now in France, and it’s covered by all candidates. The labor market is difficult for us. Since Donald Trump has been elected, we know that everything is possible. [Artists] can share our opinions via our work and try to develop awareness on sensitive topics. For me, this is about transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism…Intolerance in general.
10. Fakear, producer
French people don't feel they are important. The Front National tell us, "We will change everything you know." It's seducing, for a man who lived under Sarkozy and Hollande and saw that nothing changed for him. [If they win] it will send the same signal [as the] Trump election. The world is sick, and people want a change, but nobody's able to propose a real change, so it gets worse and worse. I'm supporting Jean-Luc Mélenchon, because he's the only one able to make a real difference and not to bend under every lobby.
11. LIQID, rapper
This election is really weird. People just don’t trust in the traditional system anymore — they doubt everything, and think all news is fake. I think most of the Front National supporters see them as the only honest party left. I don’t really “support” any of the candidates, but I will probably vote for Poutou, because he fits with my political ideas and my familial background. I can understand that some people don’t recognize themselves in any of these guys. But if you’re thinking of not voting, I just want to say “WAKE UP, FOOL!”
Reporting by Aimee Cliff, Owen Myers, and David Renshaw.