Macron Now Has to Put France Back Together Again

Macron Now Has to Put France Back Together Again
A ripped electoral poster of French President Emmanuel Macron is displayed in Lyon, France, April 22, 2022 (AP photo by Laurent Cipriani).

Unlike European Union directives, which must be published in the languages of all the bloc’s member states, the sighs of relief heard across much of Europe at the outcome of yesterday’s French presidential election needed no translation. The suspense had already receded in the two weeks since the first-round ballot, as polls showed French President Emmanuel Macron widening his lead over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. But with Macron’s reelection now sealed, the sense of having dodged a bullet in Brussels, the capitals of Europe, Washington and of course Paris is no less palpable.

The implications of a Le Pen victory for Europe—and, in turn, for the West’s standoff with Russia—had made the contest a global election in ways usually reserved for the U.S. presidential ballot. Polls at one point put Le Pen at striking distance and within the margin of error behind Macron, who took two-thirds of the vote in their 2017 face-off. In the end, Macron won decisively, with the final tally putting him at 58.5 percent.

Le Pen’s 41.5 percent represents a record score for her and the French far right, which has gone from a faction at the margins of French politics—its appearance in the second round of the 2002 presidential election was a national trauma, but considered an aberration—to being the country’s second political force. But for Le Pen, her relative success is small consolation for having once again failed to carry the ball across the line, despite softening her image and message, and facing a vulnerable and widely disliked incumbent. Though her leadership of the National Rally—more a family business than a political party—is likely secure, the cohesion of the far right overall is less so. Le Pen survived a first-round challenge from Eric Zemmour, who briefly surged in the polls by outflanking her on the right, before ultimately coming up short. It is possible her result yesterday will end up being a highwater mark, rather than another step along the way toward the ultimate prize.

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