On April 24th French President Emmanuel Macron was elected for a second five-year term. He becomes the first president since 2002 to be re-elected. A member of the party Onwards, Republic!, Macron won around 58.5% of the vote against National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen’s policy stances are far-right leaning and Macron’s victory offers France another five years of stability, especially when it comes to foreign affairs and involvement in international organizations. Interestingly, the voter turnout for this election shows that voter behavior and ideological change in the coming elections will be important factors. Any new voter mobilization or increase in voter proportion is imperative for understanding the sentiments of a nation and the legacy of a presidency.
Throughout the campaign, Le Pen became known for her far-right extremist views, and there were questions about her closeness to Moscow–especially given the current invasion of Ukraine. She has made statements on her support for the Ukrainian people, but once a proponent of leaving the European Union and hesitant regarding NATO efforts, many voters compared her stance to that of Macron. Macron was responsible for issuing sanctions on Russia and has reported sending aid to Ukraine since the invasion began.
Le Pen and her party, meanwhile, have begun paying back almost $13 million worth of loans to Aviazapchast JSC, a Moscow-based aviation company and military contractor which has been sanctioned by the United States. National Rally had originally taken the loans from the First Czech-Russian Bank, also based in Moscow, but Aviazapchast took over the loans in 2016 following the Bank’s bankruptcy despite the company’s inactivity in the financial sector. Aviazapchast’s corporate reports do not mention the transaction.
The two candidates disagree economically as Macron favors a higher retirement age and policies that foster the building of a competitive environment. Le Pen, on the other hand, argued to lower the age of retirement and increase the minimum wage–something that may have explained the higher vote share in some regions for her, as economic inequality was an area of concern for many voters.
The most polarizing stance the candidates have is on immigration. Le Pen has become known for her more extreme views on immigration as many of her income related policies depend on tightening immigration, especially for Muslims. Her views revolve around priority for French citizens and a re-evaluation of refuge status in the country for both legal and illegal immigrants. Macron, a centrist whose policies have shifted ever so slightly to the right since his election in 2017, prefers a re-evaluation of existing processes, but not near the degree his opponent does.
While Macron has pledged to serve dutifully for his second term, he will need to look at the economic concerns citizens have as the power of the right certainly posed a challenge to his election. His strategy in posing Le Pen as an extremist and highlighting her ties to Putin was incredibly salient to voters. The election overall was much closer than that of 2017, demonstrating that enough voters were dissatisfied with Macron or encouraged by Le Pen and this trend should be taken seriously. Many voters were not happy with either candidate, they voted with empty ballots or refrained from voting altogether.
Macron, as congratulated by other world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, represents a victory for the preservation of France’s involvement in the European Union and democratic values. A win for democracy, however, must be upheld by proper action, and as the turnout conveys, voters are watching.