With all votes counted, The Guardian’s result tracker has Macron’s total percentage of votes totaled at 66.1%, quite the landslide victory for youngest president in France’s history.
After his strong showing in the first round of voting, Macron was predicted to win the presidency by the majority of of pollsters. This is despite the expectancy that Marine Le Pen would comprehensively win the first round of polling.
Le Pen’s campaign model, often resembling that of Trump, drew in many faithful supporters who flocked to her rallies. Her flamboyance alloyed with a populist stance, underlining the immigration problems ravaging her country, was virtually the central theme of the campaign. Extreme vetting, “Frexit,” and closing the borders were the key issues pressed upon by Le Pen to garner support.
On the other hand, France got a “centrist” political outsider in Emmanuel Macron who ran his campaign on the promise to unite a fractured country while continuing to keep France in the European Union. He said the world was watching and “waiting for us to defend the spirit of the Enlightenment, threatened in so many places.
Macron has established a strong image of himself in his country. He served two years as the economic minister under Francois Hollande, where he promoted pro-business policies like opening up stores on Sundays and deregulating sectors of the economy. Though he was often accused of destroying worker’s protections, at least this image of a pro-business leader went totally in his favor considering the outcome of the election. And the fact that he left the government and started his own movement, En Marche!, drew widespread public acclamation throughout the country, certainly aiding his victory.
Now, there is no doubt that breaking away from the European Union would have created massive economic upheavals for the country. For example, trade and manufacturing would suffer long-term consequences as settling new free-trade deals with EU members becomes tougher after exiting. Being aware of this, Macron wisely positioned himself as a pro-EU candidate willing to retain the status quo, something the French people apparently value more than their borders and immigration intake.
The presidential debate had barely any weight upon the election. Neither of the candidates resembled a trait capable of swaying the last minute voters. Nullifying the opponents’ counter was the way to go.
Macron also had some help to lead him to the presidency. Unlike Le Pen, who faced major division within the conservative establishment, Macron enjoyed unrelenting support from the left-wing establishment, including President Francois Hollande and socialism preacher Benoit Hamon.
Apart from support from the establishment, polls seemingly indicated a sweeping Macron victory. Opinion polls from OpinionWay and Harris predicted an overwhelming Macron victory with over 60% of the votes. Even on May 5th, Ipsos predicted a 63% vote share for a Macron presidency.
Whether it were the polls, support from the establishment, or public image, everything was stacked against Le Pen’s campaign.
Nevertheless the Right saw her candidacy as an opportunity to further undermine the European Union model and found striking similarities with Donald Trump’s stunning election run. The Right, from across the globe, despite Le Pen substantially falling behind Macron, threw full weight behind her.
However, the pent-up excitement for a roller-coaster French election was not on the cards, as Macron won with over ten million more votes than Le Pen.
As it turned out France was not ready to undergo any substantial changes in their political landscape and voted in favor of the candidate, who was all in favor of the status quo.
Nevertheless, the silent rise of the Right in France is quite palpable from Le Pen’s show as the leader of the National Front and the strong showing in the two rounds of voting.
As widely expected, Le Pen would most likely draft in some major changes to her party’s philosophy in order to re-position herself in the 2022 presidential bid. Her party would like to consolidate their position in the French National Assembly and garner a few more seats. As of now, they only have two seats out of a total membership of 577.
Improving their current standing in the French National Assembly is critical for Le Pen’s presidential bid in 2022.
For France, however, the present holds the key and their new youngest leader, who comprehensively subdued the far-right movement, needs to fulfill his promises.
One of the first things he has to take care of is to align his movement with the center-right and the Hollande [the outgoing French president] factions of the Socialist Party. Besides, he is taking over a divided country where the youth has shown significant support to Le Pen. France faces complicated issues not only from illegal smuggling and lack of control over immigration intake but also economically. France’s unemployment rate still exceeds the 10 percent and has not gone below that since 2014.
France has chosen a “centrist” to keep themselves in the European Union and hopefully accelerate a sluggish economy. Hopefully he can be a better president than Francois Hollande.