Presidential election in France in April 2017 is perhaps the most important over the nearly 60-year history of the Fifth Republic. The election’s first round on Sunday April 24, came at a time of an increasingly divided France, stemming from years of corrupt politicians, economic malaise, high unemployment, and terror. France has been in a state of emergency since January 2015, after the first of several Islamist terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of people, and just last week, a police officer was killed and three others wounded in a shooting on the Champs-Élysées in central Paris. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The French election also coincides with an increasingly fractious European Union (EU) preparing for Britain’s withdrawal, and a new U.S. administration that seems to prefer working bilaterally, rather than multilaterally, and has consistently espoused a somewhat isolationist policy. The leading contenders are far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen; far-left Unsubmissive France leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon; centrist En Marche, leader Emmanuel Macron; and a conservative Republicans leader, Francois Fillon.

QHA met with vice-president of Kyiv national university Olivier Vedrine to find out the details of election and possible consequences for Ukraine.

-This Sunday there will be the first round of presidential elections in France. Where do you going to vote: in France or here in French embassy?

- I gave my procuration that is why I asked my family in France to vote for me. By the way, what is important in this election, France is in the crossroads. You know we have a populism with Marine le Pen. And now we do not have left or right party. Division is rather on people that are for Europe and European values and those who are against it. Of course, they are very close to Russia, and they support Putin. People, who are for European values — are against Putin, they support Ukraine and of course Crimean Tatars.

- From your point of view, which of four main candidates will be the best choice for France and for Ukraine?

- It is a subtle question, because I am a political scientist but personally for me Emanuel Macron is the best choice. The worst is Marine Le Pen. As far as Emanuel macron is pro-European, he was under Russian attack. His web-site was attacked by Russian hackers. He is really in favor of Europe, in favor of European France and against Putin and I think for Ukraine he will be the best French president.

-Yesterday there was a round table, where Nadezda Koval expressed a sought that all of four main candidates are more or less non-systemic candidates. Is it an imitation of Trump tactics or something else?

-You are right and at the same time you are wrong. This is an imitation of Trump tactics, but there are two different ways of thinking about this imitation. One way is Marine Le Pen, who is a classic populist and completely different Emanuel Macron, who says: I am not in the system because I want to change a system. Opposite is Marine le Pen, saying that she is not in the system, but de facto she is a part of establishment because her father – Jean Marie Le Pen was also a politician and for her – politic is a heritage. She never worked to be popular and she is really part of the system. So this attitude, except for Macron, is a really kind of fake.

-This year  parliamentary elections will also be held. What is the possibility, that new President will become a lame duck without support of Parliament?

- It is a good question and it is really a key issue. The presidential elections are important but without victory in parliamentary elections the President will be weak. The main target of candidates to become a President and after to win in parliament.  That will be very difficult for all of them, for Fillon, Macron or other candidates because all of them at the same level so now it is hard to predict the result.

-This night there was a horrible terrorist attack in Paris. How can it influence Sunday elections?

-Your question is good because we are afraid of it. I saw the reactions of all the candidates and all of them reacted correctly and their reactions will minimize the impact of this attack. All of them really gave good speeches, moreover, I think that this attack reunified my country. Probably the only candidate that will use it more than others is Marine le Penn as far as the main points of her program is the problem of immigration. For her this is the good news.

- Let’s come back to Ukrainian issues. How do you think, what is the most realistic way of reintegration of Donbass and Crimea for Ukraine under the new president?

- I worked with some Russian and Ukrainian experts, first of all with Maidan of Foreign Affairs on report on Minsk agreement. And this is a shame, it is more for Putin than for Ukraine, and I think the new French government, and also the new German one, as there will be German elections in September, they will have to think how they can solve this crisis issue, maybe to propose a new agreement. Because the non-sufficiency of this agreement is obvious, and now we have no solution to this crisis in Ukraine.  And the Minsk agreement is not the solution. We really have to work on that. I think, the problem will be solved, when Putin is removed from the power.

-Can we expect more active position from President Macron towards Ukraine and Donbas?

- Yes, from Macron definitely yes. And I want to do a difference between Fillon and Le Pen. First of all, Le Pan received some money, you know, from Russia, and some bank loan, and she was in Moscow, she met a lot of ultra-nationalist or let’s say pro-Putin persons, and she will be totally on the influence. If Marine Le Pen has the power, but I think she will not become our next President, she will do the exactly police of Putin.
For Fillon this is a bit different. Fillon doesn’t really know Russia and Russian attitude, Russian mentality, and doesn’t really know what is happening in Ukraine. Unlike Le Pen, he didn’t receive direct money, but some of his advisers (those deputies were in Crimea) gave him a bad image and wrong information. Then, I think for Fillon the result of that wrong information and this misunderstanding is that he doesn’t know what is going on in Ukraine, what is going on in the Crimea. And he really doesn’t understand the Russian mentality. But I know that Around Fillon and some other persons support Ukraine and are against Putin.
 In the Republican Party there are a lot of deputies who know what is going on in Ukraine and in Russia. And if Fillon is elected, I think, he will not be totally under the Putin influence. Because, first of all, he will have to take into consideration the members of the party, who oppose Putin, as well as the French citizens who in a large part are against Putin.

- What is the public opinion about current French policy towards sanctions on Russia and support to Ukraine?

- Large part of a French people are not in favor of Putin. We did some polls and saw that 70% think that Putin is a traitor for Europe. Only a marginal part of extreme right and extreme left are in favor of Putin. It is 25-30 %.

- Is it possible that we will see the same situation like in USA, when Trump was also considered a pro-Russian candidate, but now we see that his policy towards Russia is more and more hostile?

-Yes, you are right, for Fillon it will be the same situation, but not for Marine le Pen.

- How much time will it take the French people to explain it to the new President?

- I think, it will be quickly, maybe 2-3 months will be enough, like for Trump.

Thank you for Interview!

Roman Kot, Aleksandr Voronin