Elsa Sc S looks at a political comeback of the French presidential election
President Macron of the French presidential election was besieged by protests just two years ago has come back with a bang revealing that democracy possesses the potential to put matters right and that a committed democrat leading a country can achieve it through lengthy parleys with his compatriots. Emmanuel Macron has won five more years as France’s president after a convincing victory over rival Marine Le Pen, who nevertheless secured the far right’s highest share of the vote yet. He won by 58.55% to 41.45%, a greater margin than expected. He is the first sitting president in 20 years to be re-elected. Macron’s victory was welcomed by relieved European leaders, who had feared a far-right candidate offering a series of anti-EU policies.
Macron chose a highly symbolic venue from the French Revolution for his victory speech in the Champs de Mars. Accompanied by his wife Brigitte he walked to the stage accompanied by the EU anthem Ode to Joy before promising supporters that no-one will be left by the wayside. Addressing voters who had backed him to keep the far right out of power he said he would be indebted to them for years to come. He has come out victorious after facing a storm of protests against the cost of living crisis facing millions of French people that became the primary issue of the election campaign and the president’s opponents accused him of arrogance and acting as a president of the rich. For France’s political leaders, the next task is to regroup and fight parliamentary elections in June. Macron may have a majority for the moment, but defeated candidates from the first round already have the new campaign in sight and one opinion poll suggests 63% of voters want him to lose his majority.
The French began voting on Sunday in an election that was billed to decide whether pro-European Union, centrist President Emmanuel Macron keeps his job or is unseated by far-right euro-sceptic Marine Le Pen in what would amount to a political earthquake. Opinion polls in recent days gave Macron a solid and slightly growing lead as analysts said Le Pen — despite her efforts to soften her image and tone down some of her National Rally party’s policies — remained unpalatable for many. It was, however, opined that a surprise Le Pen victory could not be ruled out, given the high numbers of voters who were undecided or not sure if they would vote at all in the presidential runoff. With polls showing neither candidate able to count on enough committed supporters, much was expected to depend on a cohort of voters who were weighing up anxiety about the implications of a far-right presidency against anger at Macron’s record since his 2017 election. Fears were expressed that if Le Pen does win, it would likely carry the same sense of stunning political upheaval as the British vote to leave the European Union or the US election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Macron, 44 and the winner in the same matchup five years ago, has warned of civil war if Le Pen — whose policies include a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public — is elected and has called on democrats of all stripes to back him. Le Pen, 53, focused her campaign on the rising cost of living in the world’s seventh-largest economy, which many French say has worsened with the surge in global energy prices. She has also zeroed in on Macron’s abrasive leadership style which she says shows an elitist contempt for ordinary people. Though Macron has prevailed but he will face a difficult second term, with none of the grace periods that he enjoyed after his first victory and protests likely over his plan to continue pro-business reforms, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
Despite her loss, Ms Le Pen, said her significant vote share still marked a victory but her rivals pointed out that she had ultimately failed, just like her father who preceded her as it was the eighth time the Le Pen name has been hit by defeat. Marine Le Pen took over the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 in a bid to make it electable. She won more than 13 million votes, on a platform of tax cuts to tackle the high cost of living, a ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in public and a referendum on immigration controls. More than one in three voters did not vote for either candidate with the voter turnout remaining just under 72 percent, the lowest in a presidential run-off since 1969 and more than three million people cast spoilt or blank votes. Much of France was on holiday on the day of the vote but the low turnout also reflected the apathy of voters who complained neither candidate represented them. Voters who said they were casting blank ballots said that they wanted to punish the sitting president. Anti-Macron demonstrators rallied in a number of cities, including Paris, Rennes, Toulouse and Nantes, refusing to accept the result. TW