As expected, incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron sailed to a firm victory against Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election. However, the real news is hiding in the details.
Unlike the United States, France has a multi-round election. If no candidate wins a majority during the initial round, the two top performers go to a second and final vote. The first round turned out to be a three-way race: centrist Macron (27.85%), national populist Le Pen (23.15%), and Marxist populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon (21.95%).
Although France diverges strongly from American politics, Macron is roughly comparable to Hillary Clinton, Le Pen to former President Donald Trump, and Mélenchon to members of the far-left Squad. All three candidates were from parties that either didn’t exist a few years ago or had never been in power.
On cultural and social issues, Mélenchon and Le Pen were on opposite sides of the scale. Therefore, the first round results dictated that, barring a miracle, Macron would cruise to victory with the support of Mélenchon’s voters. That’s why the results of the second round are interesting.
In 2017, Macron got 66.1% against Le Pen’s 33.9%. In 2022, Macron got only 58.6% (-7.5%) while Le Pen scored 41.5% (+7.6%). Le Pen did not lose voters in any district and gained in nearly all of them, some with double digits. In her concession speech, she said she regarded the result as “a shining victory” that sent a powerful message to European leaders that the French people greatly mistrusted them.
According to exit polls, 45% of Mélenchon’s voters abstained from voting in the second round; 42% of them voted for Macron, while 13% voted for Le Pen. Despite the lowest voter turnout since 1969, Le Pen’s gains were significant also in absolute votes. While only 10.64 million voted for her in 2017, 13.28 million gave her their confidence in 2022. A similar increase in 2027 will likely secure her the presidency.
The Future of Europe
While centrists and globalists all over Europe celebrate Macron’s victory, trouble is looming for them in the future. Although the center and the left combined still hold robust majorities across most of the continent, the populist right is steadily gaining in every election cycle.
France differs from many other countries in that Le Pen’s largest supporter base is among people aged 30 to 50, while the lowest support is among those above 65. Meanwhile, her support is surprisingly strong among the youngest, given that youth is almost always coupled with radical leftism. Simple age demographics dictate that she will make significant gains in five years if she chooses to run again.
Meanwhile, Macron has been forced to adopt many of Le Pen’s positions on radical Islam due to growing anger and concern among the electorate over constant threats of terror. Even while sailing smoothly to victory, his government is haunted by the spirit of Le Pen.