The current French president, Emmanuel Macron, managed to defeat Marine Le Pen in the second round and will repeat his mandate. However, growing support from the far-right is causing concern.
Photo: TW-Emmanuel Macron
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: En Francia ganó Emmanuel Macron ¿Pero a qué costo?
Last Sunday, April 24, the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, obtained 58.54% of the votes in the second round of the national elections. This meant support for the president who today faces the pandemic in the second-largest economy in the European Union and with a war happening just east of the regional group. However, Macron's victory is not only good news for moderate French groups, but also for all pro-Europeans on the continent. This is because Macron's rival was Marine Le Pen, the face of Euroscepticism, populism, and the far-right in France. With the victory of the current president, Europe maintains what today (with the departure of Angela Merkel in Germany) is the natural leader of the European Union.
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However, in addition to Macron's victory, there is other news that left the election day. The defeated Marine Le Pen registered support of 41.46%. This leaves several challenges that Macron and Europe itself will have to deal with in the future.
A Divided France
In the first instance, the elections demonstrate a divided country. The figure of the president carries a ballast of 4 years, which barely achieved 27.85% of the votes in the first round. He will have to manage a country where not only the populist right is powerful, but also the extreme left that many see included in Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who went from having 19.58% of the votes in 2017 to 21.95% in the recent elections. These results placed him less than 2 percentage points behind second place, obtained by Le Pen.
However, it is also important to note that Macron managed to increase electoral support in his 4 years in office, although he did not sweep the first round, nor was he close to winning the presidency from the start. Back then, he drew 24% support in the first round. But just as his improvement in the first round stands out, it was difficult for him to agree on support in the second, since before he took 66% of the national support.
Now there are 5 years in which Macron will have to face the purchasing power of the French, the war in Ukraine, and the environment, the main issues that concern voters.
Populist Right, Increasingly Stronger in Europe
Marine Le Pen not only represents French nationalism. It is also the Gallic chapter of a phenomenon that already has several leaders throughout the European scene. These are parties that already govern in Poland with Mateusz Morawiecki or in Hungary with the "almighty" Viktor Orbán. They have also been part of the government coalition in Austria, Italy, Finland, and the Netherlands. The power that he demonstrated in France may portend a possible government in the future. This would be the biggest victory for the populist right in Europe. In this scenario, it would not only control Europe's second-largest economy but one of its greatest leaders. It would be in an unbeatable position to modify the estates of the European Union, or even lean towards its destruction.
In short, the Europe that Merkel and her allies took years to build is completely different from what Marine Le Pen or Viktor Orbán imagined.
Le Pen, a Friend of Putin
Despite trying to stand out during the campaign, Marine Le Pen has been close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This shows that Putin with greater influence in Europe is increasingly possible. And if he were to have key allies, it would be enough for the European Union (and many NATO members) to have a friendlier stance towards his aspirations.
For many, in short, Macron's victory is a relief for the pro-Europeans. But this can also be interpreted as the victory of a battle because the electoral war is much more complex and larger.