Centrist Emmanuel Macron became the first French president in two decades to win a second term Sunday in an election that reflected both a rise in conservative strength and voter apathy.
As ballots were totaled and Macron looked to garner 58% of the vote, Le Pen quickly conceded the race but declared it a “victory” for her political movement. She addressed her supporters in Paris and noted the coming parliamentary elections in June before adding, “I will not abandon the French, vive la France!”
Macron, as a pro-business and pro-EU candidate, won by a considerably smaller margin than his 66% take in 2017 provided. He told his supporters Sunday evening that the anger of those who supported Le Pen must be addressed and promised that “nobody will be left by the wayside.”
The incumbent president said that “numerous” voters chose him simply to oppose Le Pen’s nationalist policies. Standing before the Eiffel Tower with the French tricolor projected behind him, Macron reminded his supporters that the war in Ukraine means they are all “going through tragic times” and France’s voice must be heard.
As expected, response from EU leaders late Sunday was overwhelmingly positive. Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hailed Macron’s victory with “Democracy wins, Europe wins.” However, he did not explain how one candidate winning a democratic vote as opposed to another winning the same democratic vote is better for democracy.
Final voter numbers for the election are not in, but the tally for specific points of the day shows lower turnout than the contest between Macron and Le Pen in 2017. The polling firm Ipsos said the abstention rate for Sunday’s second round is expected to finish at about 28%, the highest for that stage since 1969.
There is considerable hand-wringing in European capitals over the strong showing by Le Pen, who stands diametrically opposed to the overwhelmingly liberal leadership of the EU. But it wasn’t only politicians who feared a conservative revolution. One cafe customer in Paris told a journalist that if Le Pen had emerged victorious, “I would have moved to Canada.” Where have we heard that empty threat before?