by Graham Pierrepoint
In a landmark win for the French Presidency, the media have widely reported that Emmanuel Macron – the former finance minister who appeared late on in the contest to capture the center-ground in France’s leadership election – has triumphed over former Front National leader Marine Le Pen. The President-Elect, representing his own party En Marche!, swept to victory on May 7th with around 66% of the popular vote – indicating that two thirds of the voting public opted for his centrist, pro-EU politics.
The result was marked by Macron pledging to unite France following concern over a rise in voting for more extreme politics. Macron advised crowds that he ‘will do everything to make sure you never have reason again to vote for extremes’ – perhaps settling nerves that Le Pen, considered the foremost far right candidate in this election, had a chance at getting the top job. Certainly, there has been considerable shift towards a new kind of politics over the past twelve months alone. The UK ushered in Brexit on a majority vote and the US elected Donald Trump on the crest of an overwhelming Republican majority – meaning that many were concerned the rise of what has been termed as the ‘alt-right’ could sweep into the mainstream.
It’s been an election of many surprises, particularly as Conservative candidate Francois Fillon was considered the most likely successor to outgoing Socialist Francois Hollande this May – until a series of revelations regarding payments to his wife appeared to loosen his control over his campaign as media coverage appeared to sour. Macron emerged as something of a wildcard – many described him as ‘France’s Trump’ – not in terms of political stance, but with regard to the alternative form of leadership he proposed. The concept of the ‘protest vote’ has emerged as extremely relevant in recent months, and it is not hard to understand why Macron has emerged such a clear winner in France – the French are ready for a new leader, and Macron appealed to a broad enough demographic to pick up voters for candidates who had fallen in the first round of voting.
It’s still a considerable voting victory for Le Pen, who will no doubt be happy to have appealed to 34% of the electorate – a considerable chunk of the voting public having opted for a candidate who many were concerned offered too extreme a regime to lead the country. Regardless of what happened along the way, Macron has emerged the voters’ favorite – and he has pledged to re-assess EU policies in light of growing unease in the country.