President Emmanuel Macron of France won a solid reelection victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday.
Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen to win reelection as France’s President in Sunday’s runoff election. The runoff came two weeks after the first-round election where Macron finished only narrowly ahead of Le Pen.
- Macron defeated Le Pen by a 59-41 margin, a slimmer yet still sizeable victory compared to the 66-34 blowout over Le Pen that carried him into office aged just 39 in 2017. He is the first French president to win reelection since 2002.
- At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, Macron acknowledged that many only voted for him to prevent Le Pen from winning and pledged to be a “president for all.”
- His turbulent first term saw the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protestors take to the streets over high energy costs in 2018, labeling him the “president of the rich.” He oversaw France’s response to the pandemic and moved to the right on security, immigration, and Islam after several Islamist terrorist attacks.
- Macron’s next test is the June parliamentary elections, which traditionally are won by the president’s party. Le Pen and leftist third-place finisher Jean-Luc Melenchon both vowed to run strong campaigns to neuter Macron by winning a parliamentary majority and becoming prime minister in what’s known as “cohabitation.”
- A victory by pro-Russian Le Pen would have led to a “seismic upheaval” in European politics. Macron will maintain French support for NATO, Ukraine, and efforts to punish Russia.
- The New York Times quoted Macron’s victory speech, where he thanked those who voted for him to stop Le Pen. He said, “many of our compatriots voted for me today not to support my ideas but to form a dam against the extreme right.”
- The Washington Post noted Le Pen had success bringing her party into the mainstream and moderating her image. Her focus on economic issues and the cost of living resonated, particularly with younger voters.
- The Guardian reported Le Pen called her 41% vote share “a victory in itself” as the highest percentage a far-right candidate has won in a French election. Le Pen left the door open to a fourth run for the presidency in 2027.
- The Telegraph outlined Macron’s plans for his second term, including a European Union defense policy, domestic reform, and tackling the rising cost of living.
- The Wall Street Journal described the challenges facing Macron in his second term: uniting the millions of French who voted for other candidates, consolidating his pro-business reforms, and ensuring prosperity for the disillusioned younger voters who supported Le Pen.
- Fox News collected congratulatory statements from other world leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and European Union Chief Ursula von der Leyen.
Macron’s victory comes as a relief for other Western leaders. Le Pen is uncomfortably cozy with Putin and pledged to end French military aid to Ukraine and leave NATO’s military command structure. Her victory would have thrown a wrench into the West’s efforts to punish Vladimir Putin for his brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
France’s right turn is unmistakable. Macron, a former Socialist cabinet secretary, has steadily moved right on immigration, assimilation, the economy, and anti-wokisme during his five years in office. The relatively closer margin of this election seems likely to prevent a drift back leftward to his socialist roots.
For the segments of the French right opposed to Macron, it may be time to find a new standard-bearer. While Le Pen secured her highest vote share ever yesterday, she has now lost 4 consecutive elections. If one was to compare Le Pen’s defeat to American elections, she did only slightly better than Walter Mondale, the hapless Democratic nominee who lost a 49-state blowout to Ronald Reagan.
Macron, now firmly a politician of the center-right, ran on a platform much more familiar to watchers of American politics than Le Pen’s very European platform of right-wing socialism. France’s first president to win reelection in 20 years now has five years to rebuild his popularity and secure the lasting economic reforms he began in his first term.
© Dominic Moore, 2022