By Maryam Al-Zanki
PARIS, April 21 (KUNA) -- The French voters will go to polls on April 23 to pick a new president from 11 candidates, a choice that will have profound impacts on the local, regional, and international political arenas.
The results of the elections are unpredictable with the political scene being shrouded in mystery due to allegations of smear, sleaze and corruption in the country's two main parties - the Republican and the Socialist.
Ahead of the reports of corruption, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon - of the Republicans, was the frontrunner.
However, he retreated to the second place in favour of Marine Le Pen - the candidate of the right wing Front National (FN) after allegations that he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros from the public funds for almost no work. Le Pen was accused of tax evasion.
Former minister of the economy, industry and digital affairs Emmanuel Macron - an independent centrist, relished the chance and stole the limelight from both Fillon and Le Pen.
Though he became at the forefront, Macron was not immune to allegations of sleaze and favoritism on a TV program where he was investigated over alleged extramarital gay relationship.
The priorities on the agendas of the 11 candidates vary from one another with main topics being security, economy immigration, employment and whether France should stay in the European Union.
So far, there seems no clear winner, but if Le Pen managed to make a breakthrough, this could trigger an upheaval not only in France but in other EU members such as the Netherlands and Germany as well.
Le Pen's electoral platform seeks to bring about an earthquake in France similar to Brexit, the term used indicating Britain's leaving the EU.
Her rhetoric and the FN manifesto seek to promote populist themes of national sovereignty, law and order, anti-globalization and anti-immigration.
She stated her desire to hold a public referendum on France exiting from the EU one year and a half after being elected.
On November 9, 2016, the FN leader welcomed Trump's triumph as "good news" for France and three months later, she said Trump's election is the end of a world and the beginning of new world.
She added that the EU world is marked with ultra-liberalism and savage globalization artificially created across nations, and that world is dead.
Political observers noted that Le Pen, since she kick-started her campaign last February, has not mention words such as "Islam" or "Islamist".
This clear signal from the right wing hopeful, coupled with the Republican candidate's anti-Muslim comments, will prompt the Muslim voters to boycott the elections, observers believe.
Fillon has recently accused Muslims of failure to integrate into the French community, adding that Islam constitutes a problem in France unlike other faiths. He also defended the ban on bearing 'hijab' (head veil for Muslim females).
Both Le Pen and Fillon seek to manipulate issues of terrorism and Islamophobia to attract populist votes under the pretexts that Muslims do not share values with the French people.
Contrary, Macron and Benoit Hamon, of the Socialist Party (PS), believe that women are free to wear whatever they like. They stated desire to activate the 1905 French law on secularism or the separation between the religion and state.
Hamon prioritizes the labor issues and aims to abolish the new labor law that curtailed the benefits of workers.
The other seven candidates are Nicolas Dupont-Aignan - of the Debout la France (DLF) party, Nathalie Arthaud - Workers' Struggle or Lutte Ouvriere (LO), Philippe Poutou - the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Jacques Cheminade - Solidarity and Progress (S and P), Jean Lassalle - Resistons, Jean-Luc Melenchon - the Unsubmissive France (FI), and Francois Asselineau - the Popular Republican Union (UPR). (end)