The French Election: A Victory Against The Far Right?

The French presidential election earlier this week saw centrist Emmanuel Macron triumph over far-right Marine Le Pen. Macron won comfortably with 66% of the vote, while Le Pen received a mere 34%. The turnout for the election was the lowest it has been in decades. Twelve million voters abstained and four million spoiled ballot papers, meaning around one-third of voters chose neither candidate.

Macron will be the youngest ever President of France at just 39 years old. He has never held an elected office. His background is in investment banking. The former Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Data was a member of the Socialist Party, before dropping out to run for President as a “neither left nor right” Independent. He recently formed his own political movement, called “En Marche!” It translates in English to “Forward!” The movement is centrist and aims to offer an alternative to the mainstream political parties that have fallen out of favour in France. No contestants from the two main parties, French Socialist Party and The Republicans, made it to the second stage of the election this year, a first since the post-WWII era.

Macron himself supports left-wing social issues, including LGBT and feminist issues. He is a supporter of environmental policy with aims to convince American President Trump not to back out of international climate change obligations. He is also pro-business. Controversially for those on the left-side of the political spectrum, he aims to make France more business friendly and lower corporate taxes. Perhaps most importantly for Europe, he is pro-European Union. While Le Pen promised to follow Britain in withdrawing from the European Union, Macron promised the opposite. He said, “Our duty is to rebuild the European dream.” For many, Macron’s victory is a victory for peace and prosperity in Europe.

Of course, the young President faces a difficult path. Part of Macron’s victory must be attributed to voters who were not passionate about his policies so much as they were about stopping the rise of Le Pen and Front National. Le Pen ran a campaign based on hate, xenophobia and nationalism. Her vision for the future of Europe was bleak. Her anti-immigration, isolationist policies would have been devastating for France and for Europe. Many supporters are hailing it a great victory in the face of rising populism across the world, following Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump. People are more excited over the defeat of Le Pen than the victory of Macron.

Despite losing the election, this election cycle was the biggest win for far-right party Front National in its history. The party has a long history of anti-Semitic, racist and nationalistic rhetoric. Rising support for the party is likely not going to change after the election. Included in Macrons victory speech was a vow to unite a divided France. He must find a compromise between a nation split into two extremes or else 2022 may finally be the year France elects a President Le Pen.