French Election: The 5 Leading Presidential Candidates

PARIS — Amid electoral upheavals around the world, including “Brexit” and the election of President Trump, France will hold a first round of national voting to elect a president on April 23.

Unless one candidate wins more than half of the votes, the two with the most ballots go on to a second round, held on May 7. Whoever wins that round is elected president.

Though there are 11 candidates in the first round, only a handful of them, from across the political spectrum, are leading in the opinion polls. Here is a look at who they are.

Emmanuel Macron

Age: 39

Party: A newly created political movement that roughly translates as On Our Way! or Onward! (En Marche!)

Political positioning: independent centrist

Mr. Macron, a former economy minister, was one of the main drivers behind the socialist government’s shift toward more pro-business economic policies, including allowing stores to open on Sundays.

Last summer, Mr. Macron left the government and started his own political movement, which he says is neither on the left nor the right, leaving some wondering what he stands for. He has pitched himself as forward-looking and socially progressive and is running on a free-market, pro-Europe platform. The candidacy of Mr. Macron, a former investment banker, received a lift when the prominent centrist and three-time candidate François Bayrou announced that he would endorse him.

Marine Le Pen

Age: 48

Party: National Front (Front National)

Political positioning: far right

Ms. Le Pen is the daughter and political heir to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, a far-right, nationalist, anti-immigration party.

Since becoming head of the party in 2011, she has tried to clean up its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image, leading her to split with her father and then oust him from the party. For years, she has put criticism of globalization and Islam at the center of her platform.

If elected, she has promised to hold a referendum on a French exit from the European Union. She has led in the opinion polls so far, but pollsters predict she will find it much harder to defeat an opponent in the second round of voting, where mainstream parties often work to prevent the National Front from winning.

François Fillon

Age: 63

Party: Republican Party (Les Républicains)

Political positioning: right-wing conservative

Mr. Fillon, a former prime minister, is a socially conservative and pro-free-market political veteran who has called for deep cuts in public spending and major changes in the French workplace.

He wants more controls on immigration, and he has said that Islam threatens traditional French values. Mr. Fillon was accused of embezzling public funds during his time in Parliament, upending a campaign that was, in large part, based on a projected image of probity. He has denied wrongdoing and refused to withdraw from the race.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Age: 65

Party: Rebellious France (La France Insoumise)

Political positioning: hard left

Mr. Mélenchon, a onetime Trotskyite and former Socialist politician, left the Socialist Party in 2008 to create the Left Party, backed by the Communist Party. For this year’s presidential run, he created a new political movement, La France Insoumise.

A fiery orator, Mr. Mélenchon has attracted those on the left who were disappointed by the current government’s pro-business policies and hard-line approach to security.

If elected, he wants to renegotiate European treaties or leave the European Union, reduce working hours and greatly increase public spending to support economic growth. Like Mr. Fillon and Marine Le Pen, he is in favor of working with Russia on international issues like Syria.

Benoît Hamon

Age: 49

Party: Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste)

Political positioning: left wing of the Socialist Party

Mr. Hamon, a lawmaker and former education minister, left the government when his party shifted its position toward pro-business, austerity policies.

An outspoken voice of dissent in his fractured party, Mr. Hamon has appealed to young socialist voters with an environmentally friendly, socially liberal platform, putting forth proposals to phase in a universal revenue, legalize marijuana and tax robots.

Although Mr. Hamon has secured an alliance with the French Green Party, the field on the left is still divided between him and Mr. Mélenchon, considerably lowering his chances of reaching the second round. The last time a Socialist Party candidate did not make it to the second round was in 2002.


Correction: March 4, 2017 
An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s political affiliation. Although he is a member of the Left Party, he is running as the candidate for La France Insoumise, an umbrella political movement he created. The same imprecision appeared in an earlier version of a picture caption with this article.