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PARIS - France is holding its breath as this weekend’s second-round presidential vote approaches. The first round vote on 23 April left two winners: National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Polls show newcomer Macron with an overwhelming 60/40 lead over Marine Le Pen. But many French are very nervous that a surprise electoral upset may occur if undecided voters and shut-out leftists throw their votes to Le Pen’s National Front Party.

Le Pen has vowed to ditch the Euro, pull out of the European Union and make life miserable for France’s five million impoverished, marginalized Muslims. She might withdraw from NATO and make nice with Moscow. The rest of the EU and the US are watching Le Pen’s rise with dismay. Call her Madame Trump.

Most French national elections are like bandages ripped off a long-festering wound. They produce painful memories from dark periods in France’s turbulent past, most notably the 1930’s and 1940’s, when Left and Right were at one another’s throats.

In this election, France’s traditional hard-line Left and Right parties have collapsed, being replaced by the National Front and the 39-year old Macron’s newly confected political party, ‘En Marche’, that has no presence in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.

Marine Le Pen is a very intelligent woman. She is the reincarnation of her father, Jean-Marie, whom I’ve interviewed, but with the rough edges sanded down. No more mentions of the WWII Jewish Holocaust being a ‘detail of history,’ as the old boy claimed. She is diluted far rightism. As a result, the Front’s ratings have soared: no more skin heads and hooligans. She projects maternalism and common sense blended into hard-line nationalism.

Last week, Madame Le Pen declared that ‘finance’ is a primary enemy of France. Bankers are now lumped with Muslims as dire threats to the republic. Outgoing President Francois Hollande made the same warning last year, but no one paid him any attention.

Coming from the hard-right Le Pen, it’s a bombshell. ‘Finance’ is really political code for Jews who dominate parts of France’s media, banking and industry. France has Europe’s largest Jewish population, followed by Ukraine.

Le Pen’s gun sights are trained squarely on the youthful Macron who may, it is rumored, have some Jewish background, and squarely on his former employer, the mighty French Rothschild banking empire.

The Front whispers that Macron was fabricated by the Rothschilds as a bland, malleable politician spouting platitudes and bromides. Traditional Catholic conservative Francois Fillon was not responsive enough for the French Rothschilds, it is said. French do not trust bankers or other financiers. During the 1940’s, France’s Vichy government repressed bankers and rounded up Jews for deportation to Germany. In 1937-1941, many if not most French saw Stalinist Communists as a far greater threat than Hitler’s National Socialist Germany. In fact, some French and other Europeans, including Ukrainians and Baltic peoples, waited to be ‘liberated’ by the Nazis from the Soviet threat.

Today, a lot of French wonder ‘who is Monsieur Macron, and from where did he come?’ One is reminded of silver-tongued US candidate Barack Obama, who rocketed out of obscurity to become president. Who bankrolled him and blazed a political path for him? The Deep Government, no doubt.

Who then is behind Macron if not the Rothschilds? Maybe the MEDEF big business association, maybe both. Are they making sure that the awful Madame Le Pen does not win, keep some of her promises and run France into financial and political ruin? If she wins, the hard right will surely blame the ‘financiers,’ harking back to the ugly 1930’s.

Whatever the outcome, France faces a rough ride. Macron vows to lower taxes and cut civil service employment and perks. The Left vows to fight any labor and social reforms tooth and nail. Every French president since Charles De Gaulle has failed to break the power of France’s surly unions. Though not great in membership, they can shut down France’s trains, roads, airports, food logistics, and power plants with a few phone calls. Militant farmers can block roads and thwart food shipments.

France’s labor unions have been at war with the government in Paris since 1948. Unless their inordinate power is broken, no significant economic and social reforms will be possible. The big question: who do the unions dislike the most, Macron or Le Pen?

Both claim they will shake up lethargic France. But French really don’t want to be shaken up. Seventy percent still spend their five-week annual vacations in France. They know there is no finer or more beautiful nation anywhere else, even with Madame Le Pen snorting fire and brimstone, and Macron offering don’t worry be happy placebos.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

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