Macron’s election – relief and wake-up call

This Europe Day is made all the more symbolic by the results of France’s Presidential elections: last Sunday evening the EU’s anthem, Ode to Joy resonated in the heart of Paris, the soundtrack to the victory of France’s youngest ever elected President!

En marche! Emmanuel Macron’s presidential speech and the jubilation of the multicultural crowd that celebrated his victory gave a direction to this march that we welcome with hope: ‘En marche’ for Europe, for diversity, for democracy. Against the backdrop of profound social divisions in French society that led to a final vote between him and Marine Le Pen, Mr Macron will now have to walk the talk and succeed in his ambition to ensure that, at the end of his mandate, those who voted for Ms Le Pen “no longer have a reason to vote for an extremist position.”

Following a very disappointing campaign in which content struggled to gain traction over scandals, antagonism and superficial debates, the die is now cast; but there are rifts among sections of French society and citizens’ trust in their politicians is broken. This election attracted the lowest voter turn-out since 1969, with 4 million (9%) of those who voted deciding to spoil their ballots. This casts a light on the sense of marginalisation felt by so many in the country. Likewise, the Front National had the best results in its history – more than 10.5 million votes, which is extremely alarming. But who were Ms Le Pen’s voters in this second round election? According to a study by IPSOS, Ms Le Pen performs particularly well among people who left formal education after high school and struggle to make ends meet each month. Interestingly, a study of the 2015 French regional elections published by the Jean Jaurès Foundation revealed that voters living furthest from train stations and city centres are more likely to vote for the Front National. The study goes on to show that inaccessible and poor quality services are key factors influencing Le Pen voters. Sunday’s election is yet another demonstration of the party’s ability to tap into the mood of people facing social exclusion and a sense of disenfranchisement.

Hopefully, Mr Macron has understood the meaning of his election as President in a socially fractured France, as he has rightly set himself a challenge to bring about real change. For this, he will need to ensure that under his leadership France is en marche towards a Europe founded on solid social grounds; that the diversity that he celebrates goes hand in hand with effective measures for equality and non-discrimination in all spheres of lives; that the democracy that he will orchestrate is participatory and based on pluralism that gives a positive status to differences. As Social Platform we are ready to support such reforms throughout the Union, to build a Europe that leaves no one behind.

Best wishes,

Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform