Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right party Rassemblement Nationale’s chief Marine Le Pen emerged as the top two winners in the first round of French presidential elections held yesterday. The French elect their president every 5 years with direct voting. The first two winners of the first round fight it out in the second round, to be held in two weeks’ time.
While 44-year-old Macron polled 27.6% of the votes with 95,60,545 votes, Marine Le pen, daughter of controversial ex-head of Front National Jean-Marie Le Pen garnered 23.4% votes with 81,09,857 votes. Far-left party La France Insoumise’ Jean-Luc Melenchon who created much anticipation during these elections just fell short of at least 1.4% votes to have a direct contest with Macron. He polled 22% of the votes ( 76,05,225 votes)
Eric Zemmour, the ex-journalist with controversial discourse received 7.1% ( 24,42,624) votes. Zemmour, leaning on extreme right propaganda was all over the media with his provocative statements bordering on toxic and looked to have gained a large support base at least amongst rural youth. It can be said that Zemmour’s extreme right views helped Le Pen’s already venomous look paler in comparison and managed a wider acceptance for her party, in the background of a political landscape devoid of any solid ideology. A few years back, it would have been seen with horror that Le Pen can be one of the candidates in the second round. Not to say, it didn’t happen before.
The era of Socialism and genuine right is over. No politician has the stature of socialist Mitterand or Right Wing’s Chirac. In this election, the socialists were nowhere to be seen. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris was decimated with 1.7% votes only, which is a sad commentary on the party which dominated French politics for the most period since the end of the second world war.
Several horrific incidents of Islamic terrorism carried out by isolated individuals have helped increase islamophobia in France. Macron is losing popular appeal among the poorer action of society and is being seen as pro-rich. There is disillusionment amongst the youth. The burden of social securities and skewed demographics is such that Macron wants retirement to extend yet another time from 62 to 65 years of age.
Yet, France is an important country for Europe and for the world. France has always in the forefront of the shaping of political movements around the world.
“Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity are the words that have launched a million mutinies around the world, so to speak. The staunch secularism enshrined in the French public policy since the French revolution in 1789 has guided most democracies in the world. In this context, the outcome of French presidential elections remains a matter of interest for all.