French Presidential Elections: One Month On

Back at the end of April, we posted an article by one of this year’s French at Stirling finalists, David Vescio, who went back to France after the end of teaching to vote for the first time in this year’s presidential elections. A little over a month on, with a new president now in office and David having had a chance to mull over that experience as a primo-votant and to see what France feels like under the new regime, we’re really pleased to be able to post this update from him:

“A month ago, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France, with 66.1% of the votes, with Marine Le Pen taking 33.9% (not counting blank or spoilt ballot papers). Although this may seem like a huge victory for Macron, we cannot overlook the fact that more than 10 and half million members of the French electorate voted for the far-right candidate. The French, like the Americans, have had enough of establishment politicians and a vote for Le Pen was, in many cases, a protest vote against the current political system. So why did Macron win, you might ask. Well, in the second round, many of those who voted Macron were actually voting against Le Pen, to keep her out of the Elysée. Many left-wing voters who had voted Mélenchon or Hamon, but also voters who may have voted Fillon in the first round, chose the liberal, pro-Europe candidate over his extreme right-wing rival. However, there is a definite dissatisfaction with French politics nowadays considering over ¼ of the French electorate did not vote. Nonetheless, Macron’s win was an incredible success in terms of defying mainstream parties and creating a movement which brought together people of different backgrounds. He represents a new, fresh start for France which, many would argue, is what the country needs right now.

On election night, Macron’s victory was a great relief for the great majority of French people, triggering celebrations all across Paris and throughout France, with people chanting “Vive la France” in the streets and waving French flags. Macron gave his victory speech in front of the Louvre calling for unity, while Marine Le Pen was in Vincennes, a Paris suburb, where she spoke of the need for a renewal of the Front National. Despite the early euphoria of Macron’s victory, the new President now has to face critical issues such as high unemployment, secularism, pensions, immigration as well as terrorism.

The French hope Macron will be a modern and forward-looking leader. Indeed, it appears he has already started to shake things up by appointing an equal number of men and women to his cabinet. The new government includes people from left, right and centre which reflects his wish during the campaign to bring people together and avoid party labels such as socialist or republican. However, many still see him as a product of the system, a “banker in disguise”, especially given his choice of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, former conservative mayor of Le Havre who, like Macron, is new to such high office in government. Furthermore, the new Prime Minister has taken a pro-nuclear stance in the past which, for some, shows Macron’s lack of commitment to the importance of environmental issues. While many see this choice as a reflection of his true colours, others think that this will lead to a certain balance of power within the government.

Interestingly however, President Macron recently responded to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement in a short speech, which he began in French and completed in English. This has been regarded as a gesture of friendship and partnership towards the United States and an invitation to Americans to come work in France. All in all, it is too early to see what exactly he has in store for us but why not give Président Macron a chance?”

Many thanks to David for this update on life since the presidential elections – we may well return to this topic in future topics so watch this space!

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