The centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron will be president of France for five more years after clearly defeating his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, in the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday. Macron has won with 58.8% of the vote compared to 41.2% for Le Pen, according to the estimate by the Ipsos institute for the France 2 network.
The abstention of around 28%, the highest since 1969, shows the lack of interest on the part of the electorate and the refusal of another part to choose between the two finalists. The first challenge of Macron’s new mandate will be to reconcile a France whose deep divisions have been expressed in these elections.
“Today’s vote”, declared the president, “forces us to consider all the difficulties and lives lived, and respond effectively to the anger that has been expressed”
Macron, 44, has avoided the usual punishment of the head of state in the French elections. He is the first president of the Republic to be re-elected since the mandate was shortened in 2002 from seven to five years. Since the office was first elected by universal suffrage in 1965, only François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac have had a double elected term.
Le Pen, 53, has clearly lost, but has taken a leap forward compared to the results of 2017, when he got 34% of the vote compared to 66% for Macron. This time she can exhibit the best result in history for the populist nationalism that she leads. She had never been so close to power.
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Macron, frequently accused of arrogance and contempt, tried to exercise humility in a brief and solemn speech shortly before 10 p.m. before the Eiffel Tower. He thanked the citizens of the left who, although opposed to his project, voted for him to avoid the victory of the extreme right: “Your vote for him binds me for years to come.” He also had a few words for the abstentionists: “His silence from him has meant a refusal to choose to which we must respond.” And for the voters of his rival: “I know that, for many of our compatriots who have chosen the extreme right, the anger and disagreements that have led them to vote for this project must find an answer.”
Le Pen, in a speech minutes after the first estimates were released at 8:00 p.m., declared: “Tonight’s result represents a splendid victory in itself.” And he added: “Millions of compatriots have chosen the national field.”
Twenty years after the ultra patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round for the first time to win 18% against the then president, Chirac, his daughter advances in the transformation of the extreme right into an acceptable option for about half of the voters. She has stopped scaring many French people, but not all.
Macron’s success is considerable considering that a five-year period marked by the revolt of the yellow vests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and in a country where the anti-system vote is higher than ever. With the new five-year term, and barring an unforeseeable accident, Macron will have governed France for a decade, enough time to leave his mark on the country and on the European Union.
The current head of state, who has a solid voter base of about a third of the electorate, has been seen by most as the most reliable in managing the country in a world in crisis. He has also collected a good part of the support of left-wing voters in the first round of April 10. They have voted for him, but not out of conviction.
The success of the President of the Republic is not complete. It is well below the 66% of five years ago. The extreme right and other forces that challenge the system come out stronger. And the collapse of the traditional right of the Republicans and the Socialist Party has left France with no moderate alternative to Macron’s hypercenter.
The high abstention rate reveals the disconnection of a part of the citizens with the electoral process. But it also demonstrates the president’s growing difficulties in mobilizing voters against Le Pen. The republican front – the union of left and right against the extreme right – is faltering. There are antilepenistas who have stayed at home because they refused to support Macron.
Le Pen’s defeat is not sweet at all. Perhaps he expected to lose, but not by that much. It was the third time that she tried to be president and, seen coldly, the result shows that, although she comes close, and although she softens her message, and although she tries to appear close to the French, she continues to fail in the objective of conquering the palace of the Elysium.
In the ideological field that goes from the hard right to the extreme right, a battle is opening with an uncertain outcome. It is not clear if Le Pen will continue, or if they will let her continue. Nor the role of his party, the National Regrouping (RN), linked to the family clan. Nor who, if Le Pen or other leaders who seek the reunification of all the nationalist right, will lead this movement.
In his defeat speech, Le Pen promised: “I will continue my commitment to France and the French people with the energy, perseverance and affection that you already know.”
In France, preparations are now beginning for the legislative elections on June 12 and 19. Macron will try to revalidate his majority in the 577 seats of the National Assembly. In what form remains to be seen.
Now he governs with a majority of 269 deputies from his party, La República en Marcha, from the centrist MoDem and from other small parties. The question is whether he will seek to create a new great movement that ranges from the social democratic left to the moderate right, a macronist partyor if you will choose a grand coalition of smaller parties.
The other unknown is what the extreme right will do before the legislative elections. Will the RN be presented together with the party of Éric Zemmour, the ultra talk show host who won 7% in the first round of the presidential elections? Will the right wing of the Republicans join them?
“The national bloc must unite,” Zemmour declared. “Let’s build the first coalition of the right and the patriots.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the populist left and third in the first round of the presidential elections, has declared that he aspires to unite the left under his tutelage and obtain a majority in the legislative elections that forces Macron to appoint him prime minister and govern with him in cohabitation.
“[La derrota de Le Pen] It is very good news for the unity of our people,” said Mélenchon, whose voters have contributed to Macron’s victory by betting on the president to stop Le Pen. And he added: “Mr. Macron is the worst elected president of the Fifth Republic. His presidential monarchy survives by default and under the duress of a biased election. Nothing in a sea of abstention, of blank and invalid votes”.
The Socialist Party and the Republicans are confident that their solid local roots will allow them to win an acceptable number of deputies, despite the fact that their respective presidential candidates did not reach 5% in the first round.
After the shock of the presidential elections, the legislative elections will define the political landscape for the coming years and mark the playing field for the president Macron 2. An election is over. The campaign continues.
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