French election: 'Magnificent news for Europe' as Macron secures second term

Re-election of French president Emmanuel Macron hailed by European leaders

There were as many blue and yellow European flags as French tricolours at President Emmanuel Macron’s victory celebration beneath the Eiffel Tower on Sunday night.

The re-elected president and his wife Brigitte walked hand in hand as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European anthem, played on loudspeakers.

Macron's victory was "magnificent news for all of Europe" said Italian prime minister Mario Draghi.

"The EU can count on France for five more years," said European Council president Charles Michel.


The mood among Macron supporters on the Champ de Mars was as much one of relief as joy. His score of 58.5 per cent was higher than hoped for only two weeks ago, but his opponent Marine Le Pen's score of 41.5 per cent was unprecedented for the extreme right-wing Rassemblement National.

Macron knew he was elected principally because voters rejected Le Pen. “I know that many of our compatriots voted for me today not because they support my ideas, but to block those of the extreme right,” he said. “I want to thank them and tell them that their vote creates an obligation for me . . . because of their sense of duty, their attachment to the republic and out of respect for the differences which were expressed these last weeks.”

Le Pen told her supporters gathered at the Pavillon d’Armenonville in the Bois de Boulogne that “the result in itself represents a brilliant victory”. She resumed the bitter tone of the last days of her campaign, denouncing what she called Macron’s “unfair, violent methods” and promising to lead her camp to victory in the June 12th and 19th legislative elections.

Macron (44) is the first French president to gain re-election since Jacques Chirac defeated Le Pen's father Jean-Marie by 82 to 18 per cent 20 years ago.

The results are bound to be interpreted as a sign of French support for European integration and a setback for nationalist populism, as they were five years ago. But the extreme right is clearly not a spent force in France.

Cost of living

At his last campaign appearance, Macron promised to “change method” and to “involve our compatriots more” in the process of governing. He said the country was “tired” and “fractured” by repeated crisis.

Macron will act quickly to carry out his campaign programme. In response to widespread concerns over the cost of living, he will this summer present a finance law to raise pensions and to cap energy costs.

Macron’s most risky step will be to undertake the pension changes he set aside in his first term. He has revised it to raise the retirement age by only four months each year, reaching 64 by the end of his second term in office.

Macron’s re-election does not carry the sense of hope, optimism and possibility of five years ago. Many question whether he will be able to govern.

Referring to the 28 per cent abstention rate, the highest since 1969, Jean-Luc Mélenchon called Macron “the most ill-elected president of the Fifth Republic”. Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, who won nearly 22 per cent of the vote in the first round of the election, refused to endorse Macron but said that Le Pen’s defeat was “very good news for the unity of our people”.

Mélenchon is negotiating with the Green party EELV and the Communists to form an alliance for the legislative elections. If they can win a majority of seats, they intend to force Macron into a “cohabitation” which would make Mélenchon prime minister and reduce Macron’s role to that of a high-powered foreign minister.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor