During a tense time in Europe with the greatest conflict since World War 2 escalating in Ukraine, France’s fierce election highlighted how critical of a point Europe is at politically.
As of April 24, current French president Emmanuel Macron is projected to be the clear winner against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Macron is about to begin his second five-year-long term after receiving around 59% of the vote. His margin of victory is expected to total ten points over Le Pen. Additionally, Macron’s victory is historic as he is the first French president to win reelection in two decades, according to the Associated Press. Although Macron has a clear win, this is the first time France’s far-right party, National Rally, has won more than 40% of the vote. Le Pen also significantly improved since her last run in 2017, earning seven more points than in the last election cycle.
In his victory speech, Macron acknowledged the many challenges the French people face and the divisive nature of and anger towards French politics at the moment. Despite winning, Macron has an approval rating around 40%, according to USA Today. Throughout his speech, he made clear his promise to be a leader for all people. Macron’s term has had many ups and downs, including protests over Covid-19 mitigation measures, various economic tensions, and the recent development of the war in Ukraine. All of these have tested not only Macron’s vision for France, but for Europe and the European Union as a whole. Macron has also been made aware that many voted for him simply to avoid Le Pen winning, another indication of shaky support for him. As Macron begins his second term, the issues France has faced these last couple of years will continue to shape the opinions of French voters.
One of the many reasons this election was so consequential was France’s leadership role throughout the recent war in Ukraine. France, and specifically Macron, have played an integral leadership for Europe throughout this crisis. France has provided a significant amount of support to Ukraine throughout the invasion and has helped rally other countries to support the cause. Many pro-EU factions and other EU leaders expressed excitement about Macron’s win. EU President Ursula von der Leyden said on Twitter, “Together, we will move France and Europe forward.” According to The Washington Post, Macron has been seen by many to be Europe’s central leading figure since German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently stepped down from the role she held for years.
Meanwhile, Le Pen’s National Rally party is known for its populist roots and anti-immigrant messaging. Le Pen has previously stated support for greatly restricting immigration to France and she has been the leading figure of the French populist movement. She has also previously expressed giving preference in social services to French people first, before foreigners. According to USA Today, other popular talking points for Le Pen include backlash against Macron’s plan to raise the pension age in France. In response, Macron has highlighted Le Pen’s soft stance and sympathy toward Russia, even during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.