With 27.84% of the vote, the head of state came out on top in the first round of the presidential elections on Sunday, beating his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.
The same setting as in 2017. The same chant: “Macron, president!” The same relief, too. But not quite the same euphoria. In the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles in Paris, on Sunday, April 10, Emmanuel Macron’s supporters exploded with joy seeing the scores of their candidate on the giant screen broadcasting France 2’s live coverage of the elections.
With 27.84% of the vote (according to official results), the head of state won the first round of the presidential election and largely exceeded his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen (23.15%), whom he will face in the second round. It was an initial victory, celebrated with the waving of French and European flags.
The feverishness of the last few days, linked to the gradual movement of voting intentions toward Mr. Macron and the continuous progression of those for Marine Le Pen (National Rally, RN), has given way to a more relaxed atmosphere. In a red T-shirt with “Emmanuel Macron with you” on it, Jonathan Chatillon, a student who wants to become a music teacher, is “super delighted.” “This is beyond my expectations. Now, I think we’ve done it,” he said, referring to victory in the second round.
The victory comes with a renewed confidence, reinforced, throughout the evening, by calls to vote explicitly for Mr. Macron or to block the far right.
Shouts thus accompanied the words of the candidate for La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who said: “We must not give a single vote to Ms. Le Pen.” The small crowd also started rejoicing when Anne Hidalgo, Partie socialiste candidate, called for a vote against the far right by slipping a vote for Mr. Macron into the ballot box, as did Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, France’s green party). Even comments by the right Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains) gave rise to a wave of elation: She stated her personal choice to vote in favor of the incumbent president to oppose Marine Le Pen.
The carefree spirit of 2017 is over
In the crowd, Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon said, “We’re happy, plain and simple.” The turnout, better than expected, “no longer raises the question of the legitimacy” of this election, she said. And Emmanuel Macron has”a nice lead” against the RN candidate. Five years earlier, in 2017, Macron got 24.01% of the vote in the first round, against 21.30% for Marine Le Pen.
Joy, but no champagne. At the campaigners’ buffet there was wine, beer and Coca-Cola. The carefree spirit of 2017 is over. Lessons have been learned. At the time, Mr. Macron gave the impression of having won the election on the evening of the first round. The thank-you meal for his staff, at the brasserie La Rotonde, in the company of a few VIPs, was reminiscent of that of Nicolas Sarkozy at Fouquet’s, when the right-wing candidate won in 2007. With the extreme right, once again, present in the second round, the banquet appeared inappropriate, even disturbing. “My dear friend, if you have not understood that it was my pleasure, tonight, to invite my secretaries, my security officers, politicians, writers… who, since the first day, have accompanied me, then you have not understood anything about life!” the candidate had said with bravado to those who took offense. He then concluded: “I have no lessons to learn from the small Parisian milieu.”
At 9:44 p.m., when he stepped onto the stage, the president’s tone was different. “Nothing is done!” he stressed, adding: “Let’s be humble and determined!” Two weeks before the second round, everything can still change, as the last few weeks have shown. After peaking at 30% of voting intentions following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Mr. Macron had, in recent days, lost his momentum.
Many campaigners also seemed to be aware of the road ahead. “Emmanuel Macron’s score tonight was honorable, but the second round will be difficult,” predicted Remi Guastalli, of the communications team, wearing a badge mixing the flags of Europe and Ukraine.
‘It’s a new campaign that’s starting’
No one hissed when Marine Le Pen spoke on Sunday evening, with everyone respecting the instructions of the head of state (“to defend convictions with strength but respecting each and everyone”). But everyone knows that beating the RN candidate in 2022 will not be as easy as in 2017. Ms. Le Pen, MP for Pas-de-Calais, now has a softer image and has increased her focus on social issues. This appeals to a growing part of the population, without scaring the rest of the country too much. Reminders about the nature of the extreme right are no longer enough to mobilize voters.
And, after what was considered to be a disappointing start to the campaign, supporters expect a lot from the head of the state. “I hope we’ll run a tougher campaign than in the first round, with more travel, more work on the ground. Everything is possible now, the ‘good times’ of 2002 don’t exist anymore,” said Matthieu (who did not want to give his surname). The activist was 9 years old, 20 years ago, when Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine, got past the first round of the presidential election for the first time. At the time, “un front républicain” (“a republican front”) had largely blocked the road to the extreme right (17.8% in the second round).
“It’s a new campaign that starts now,” said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, minister delegate for industry. “We must now prove that Marine Le Pen’s platform is a sham!”.
“The picture from the first round is not the picture of the second round! It is the snapshot of the state of the country,” added Marc Fesneau, minister for relations with parliament. To hear him tell it, the picture taken on Sunday night shows both a country grateful for the work done by the head of state, but also “angry” and “in a state of rebellion.” It’s an anger and a rebellion that translated into votes for Ms. Le Pen and the letftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the election with 21.95% of the vote. “It is now up to us to fight to say what we are and what she is not,” said Mr. Macron, referring to Ms. Le Pen. It’s a battle that the head of state already began on Monday, during a trip to the Hauts-de-France region.
d’aprés le Monde