Tag: Presidential Elections

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!

French Presidential Election: Experiences of a ‘Primo Votant’

For David, one of our final year students, the end of teaching and assessment was particularly significant this year because it meant a return to his home in France in time to join the ranks of the primo votants (first-time voters) in the first round of the French presidential elections. We’ve asked him to share his thoughts on this experience and we’re delighted to be able to share this post:

2017 David Primo Votant April“I voted in a French presidential election last Sunday for the first time and it felt exhilarating. Voting in France has always been an essential element when it comes to being a citizen. It is not only regarded as a right but, first and foremost, as a civic duty. Elections are always held on a Sunday so, in my family, as in many others, we all go to the polling station, which is usually in a local school hall. As I cast my vote by placing my sealed envelope in the ballot box, the officer solemnly announced “a voté” (has voted) and I signed the register. I felt apprehensive, yet excited, at the prospect of voting as I was aware of the importance of my choice, especially nowadays with the current climate of political uncertainty.

On leaving the polling station, we bought croissants and pains au chocolat (ouh la la!) and discussed the possible outcome of the elections with the results due to be announced at 8 o’clock that night. People discuss politics quite openly in France and the French can be very vocal about their political views which can be a source of tension and heated debate during family meals. The situation was especially tense this year as several non-mainstream candidates were in the running for the Elysée. The atmosphere as we waited for the results on Sunday evening was one of excitement and impatience. And it was nerve-racking when the results were actually announced. I was in front of the telly with my family, glass of wine in hand (bien sûr !), watching David Pujadas, one of France’s most famous TV presenters, who already knew the results, commenting on the atmosphere in the headquarters of the various candidates, with the countdown to the results behind him.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, voici the results: Macron and Le Pen are through to the second round. A shockwave of disappointment, fear, joy, excitement is felt throughout France. For the first time in the history of the 5th Republic, politicians representing neither the traditional left nor right wing parties are through to the second round of the presidential elections. The next morning, the streets were empty; people were either at work or stayed at recovering from the shock of the results perhaps, or from the hangover from the wine the night before. Overall, this presidential race has created an increase in political awareness among French people, especially the younger generation, not unlike in the U.S. elections. It is however worth noting that more than 20% chose not to vote. The two remaining candidates now have a little more than a week to convince voters who did not vote for them in the first round that they should be the next French President. Whatever the result on Sunday 7th May, we can safely it will be a first for France! Vive la République et vive la France!”

Many thanks to David for this blog piece and we look forward to an update after the 2nd round!