April 25, 2022
Emmanuel Macron has won a second term as president of France—triumphing on Sunday, April 24, over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger—after a campaign during which his promise of stability prevailed over the strong temptation of an extremist lurch, reports The New York Times.
Le Pen conceded to Macron not long after the polls closed. Macron, 44, won 58.8% of the vote in the second round of the presidential election, against 41.2% for Marine Le Pen, 53, according to estimates from Ipsos.
The French do not generally love their presidents, and none had succeeded in being re-elected since 2002. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective stewardship over the COVID-19 crisis, his rekindling of the economy, and his political agility in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum, the Times notes.
Le Pen—who softened her image, if not her anti-immigrant nationalist program—rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, ending the taboo that held that defense of the Republic meant keeping the far right at the margins.
Indeed, the Times asserts, Macron’s victory over Le Pen—a longtime sympathizer with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and the leader of a party hostile to NATO—will come as a relief to the United States and France’s European allies at a time when there is a war raging in Ukraine.
Le Pen, to judge by her program and past actions, would have pursued policies that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russia’s assault, offered Putin a breach to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to it.
In summing up the situation, the Times notes that, if Brexit was a blow to unity; a French nationalist quasi exit, as set out in Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a volatile moment.
During his first term, Macron succeeded in spurring growth, slashing unemployment, and instilling a start-up tech culture—but was unable to address growing inequality, or simmering anger among the alienated and the struggling in areas of urban blight and rural remoteness. Societal divisions sharpened as incomes stagnated, prices rose, and automation killed factory jobs.
As a result, Macron’s political capital is more limited, even if his clear victory has saved France from a dangerous tilt toward xenophobic nationalism.
Research contact: @nytimes