France’s 5 Main Contenders in the Presidential Race

January 29, 2017 Updated: January 30, 2017
French conservative presidential candidate for next spring presidential elections Marine le Pen delivers her New Year's address to the media in Paris on Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
French conservative presidential candidate, Marine le Pen in Paris on Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

MARINE LE PEN, 48

Conservative leader Le Pen, who has strong anti-migrant views, wants to strengthen France’s borders and reinstate its national currency, the franc.

Since inheriting the leadership of the National Front party from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011, she has focused on economic protectionism and fears of Islam. The makeover has boosted the party’s fortunes among French voters before the spring presidential election.

Early polls show Le Pen may be among the two top contenders in the first round of the two-part election and advance to the runoff.

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Candidate for the French left's presidential primaries ahead of the 2017 presidential election, Benoit Hamon, speaks to press after the first round of the primaries in Trappes, west of Paris on Jan. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Candidate for the French left’s presidential primaries, Benoit Hamon, in Trappes, west of Paris on Jan. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

BENOIT HAMON, 49

Comparatively inexperienced, Hamon was chosen as the Socialist nominee on Sunday, defeating former Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a primary runoff.

He is a former junior minister and briefly served as education minister under President Francois Hollande. Hamon then rebelled against Hollande’s shift toward more business friendly policies and left the government in 2014. His signature proposal is to give a “universal income” of 750 euros ($800) gradually to all adults.

The Socialist candidate is now squeezed between conservative and centrist rivals.

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Candidate for the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party primaries ahead of the 2017 presidential election and former French prime minister Francois Fillon (R) leaves after voting at a polling station, in Paris on Nov. 20, 2016 (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Candidate for the conservative Les Republicains (LR), Francois Fillon (R), in Paris on Nov. 20, 2016 (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

FRANCOIS FILLON, 62

Fillon won the conservative nomination in November. He’s campaigning on promises of drastic free-market reforms, a hard line on immigration and Islam, support for traditional family values and friendlier ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Allegations that his wife, Penelope, held a fake but handsomely paid job as a parliamentary aide disrupted Fillon’s campaign during the last week. Polls suggest his biggest obstacle to advancing in the general election may be conservative leader Marine Le Pen.

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French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron waves as he leaves after a visit to a shopping center on the first day of the winter sales in Paris on Jan. 6, 2016. The five-week 2016 winter sales start everywhere across France on Wednesday jan.6 and end on Feb. 16. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Jan. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

EMMANUEL MACRON, 39

Centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, is campaigning on pro-free market, pro-European views. He suggests loosening some of France’ stringent labor rules, especially the 35-hour workweek, to boost hiring.

Macron is a former investment banker. He became Hollande’s economic adviser at the Elysee Palace in 2012 and two years later, economy minister. He left the government last year after he launched his own political movement, “In Motion” (En Marche). He never has held elected office.

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French Left party leader  and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Jean-Luc Melenchon  delivers a speech during a meeting in Tourcoing, northern France Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
French Left party leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Jean-Luc Melenchon in Tourcoing, northern France on Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

JEAN-LUC MELENCHON, 65

Outspoken Jean-Luc Melenchon, 65, is a former Socialist who left the party in 2008 to create his own far-left movement, the Left Party.

Presenting himself as the people’s candidate, he is calling for reforms to make the European Union “more democratic” and advocates environment friendly measures. He promises a 1,300-euro ($1,393) minimum wage for employees, up from 1,149-euro ($1,231) now.

Melenchon was a candidate in the 2012 presidential race, coming in fourth with 11.1 percent of the votes in the first round.