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French Presidential Elections: Emmanuel Macron Reelected by Hélène de Lauzun

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French Presidential Elections: Emmanuel Macron Reelected

The incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, has just been re-elected as head of France for a second term, with a result of 58.6% against the Rassemblement National candidate Marine Le Pen, whom he was facing for the second time and who received 41.4% of the vote.

He thus became the first president of the Fifth Republic to be re-elected outside of a cohabitation—that is, in a configuration where the Prime Minister in place at the time of the elections belongs to the opposing camp.

The abstention rate was 28.1%, the highest since the election of Georges Pompidou in 1969. At that time, the Left massively boycotted the election between the Gaullist Georges Pompidou and the centrist Alain Poher because they were not represented in the second round.

The results show strong disparities between the territories. In the overseas departments, whose results were known first because of the time difference, Marine Le Pen achieved unprecedented scores: in Guadeloupe, Marine Le Pen received nearly 70% of the vote, and in Martinique, 60%. In Mayotte, she gathered 63% of the voters. While these departments had massively supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the elections, voters turned to Marine Le Pen in a powerful reflex of opposition to the incumbent president. However, this phenomenon was not reproduced in metropolitan France, since the analyses of vote transfers show that 42% of Jean-Mélenchon’s voters turned to Emmanuel Macron: the effort to “block” the far right has shown its persistence and effectiveness, for the third consecutive time—in 2002, 2017, and 2022.

Emmanuel Macron thus wins the election, but his victory, despite the triumphalist declarations of some members of the government, is an ambiguous one. The gap between the two candidates narrowed considerably between 2017 and 2022, and abstention increased. He won only 38.52% of the registered voters, which gives him a very relative legitimacy. But the most important thing is that the voters who supported Emmanuel Macron did not do so because they agreed with his record and his programme. As a survey by the BVA institute for the regional daily Ouest-France shows, only 33% of Emmanuel Macron’s voters chose him because of his political proposals, while 51% of Marine Le Pen’s voters said they supported her programme.

This is a situation of which the re-elected president is fully aware. “I know that many of our compatriots have voted for me today, not to support the ideas I carry, but to block those of the far-right,” acknowledged Emmanuel Macron, during his victory speech, delivered from the Champ-de-Mars. One of the flagship measures of his programme, namely the postponement of the retirement age to 65 years, has the support of only 14% of voters. His health policy is not convincing either, and was supported by only 19% of voters.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in his declaration on the evening of the second round, insisted on the lack of legitimacy of the outgoing president, making him “the most badly elected president of the Fifth Republic.” This statement is inaccurate, because it was in fact Georges Pompidou who received the lowest support, in 1969, with 37.5% of registered voters. But the very particular situation of his election—he presented himself as the direct heir of General de Gaulle who had just resigned—makes the elections difficult to compare. There is no doubt that Emmanuel Macron is starting his second term in office in difficult circumstances, and several media outlets point to the risk in a total absence of a “state of grace”—an expression usually used to characterise the favourable moment in public opinion a president enjoys at the beginning of his term. Numerous demonstrations broke out in cities across France to contest the result. In Paris, the police had to charge into the Place de la République to disperse far-left demonstrators

When the results were announced, Marine Le Pen decried the highly offensive tactics taken by Macron to discredit her. The unsuccessful candidate was keen to highlight the violent and manipulative campaign conducted by her opponent between the two rounds, sometimes in defiance of the rules of electoral ethics, while also recognizing the achievement of her party: “Despite two weeks of disloyal and shocking methods, the ideas we represent are being taken to the top: tonight’s result represents in itself a resounding victory.” She concluded by focusing her attention on the next deadline, namely the legislative elections scheduled for the 12th and 19th of June: “Tonight we are launching the great battle of the legislative elections. I will lead this battle alongside Jordan Bardella [the president of the Rassemblement National] with all those who have the Nation at heart.” 

The stakes are high, as they will decide on the future head of government according to the majority obtained. The objective is to prevent Emmanuel Macron from obtaining a new majority—which is also the wish of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for mobilisation and already asked voters, a few days before the second round, to “elect him Prime Minister” in June

For his part, Éric Zemmour had very harsh words towards the defeated candidate: “This is the eighth time the name of Le Pen has led to defeat,” he said. Zemmour called for the union of the national bloc: “Our coalition is not an option, it is a necessity. It is a duty. We have a country to reclaim.” 

The next few weeks will be devoted to intense discussions between the different formations of the Right—made particularly difficult by the hostility accumulated on both sides during the presidential campaign.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).