- 08 May 17
Fears of a drift to the right in Europe were further assuaged last night with the news that Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French presidency had bitten the dust in spectacular style.
Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France yesterday, scoring a stunning victory over the candidate from the Front National, Marine Le Pen.
While opinion polls had suggested that Macron would take approximately 60% of the vote, fears had been raised that there might be a similar twist in the tail of the election to recent votes in the US and the UK – and that Le Pen might get far closer to the 50% necessary to win than the polls were suggesting. Those fears were exacerbated when, in what is becoming a regular feature in modern elections, the Macron nerve-centre was hacked by cyber vandals, and confidential documents from the liberal candidates campaign were leaked on a French website, the day before the election.
The leaked documents were deliberately contaminated with fake material, potentially throwing the entire election process into confusion and doubt. It had all the hallmarks of the kind of right-wing tactics that worked in the US Presidential election, and which also turned the British referendum on Brexit into a victory for ‘Leave'. On this occasion, however, the attempt to derail the Macron campaign failed.
Indeed the results seem to confirm that there was a swing in the last week of the campaign to the young, centrist candidate, with Macron winning support from 65.1% of the electorate. Given the wider political climate in Europe, and the claims that had been made by Le Pen and her supporters, it amounted to a ringing rejection of neo-Fascism by the people of France – who in the end stood for liberty and equality.
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins has written to Emmanuel Macron congratulating him on his victory and highlighting the many references in his campaign to the need for renewal of European purpose, based on European values, and the commitment that his Presidency will engage not only with French but European and global matters. President Higgins said that these commitments will be welcomed by all those seeking a positive discourse on contemporary issues.
Enda Kenny also issued a warm message, congratulating Macron in a tweet: "Congrats @EmmanuelMacron – an outstanding result & strong signal of confidence in the future of EU in which France will play significant part.”
Donald Trump also tweeted: "Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next President of France. I look very much forward to working with him!”
Trump will doubtless have enjoyed the message from European Council president Donald Tusk, who said on Twitter: "Congratulations to French people for choosing liberty, equality and fraternity over tyranny of fake news."
Macron will now seek to heal the divisions in French society – and to provide an antidote to the drift towards narrow nationalism represented by the highest ever level of support for Le Pen and the Front National. Ironically, the strongest unifying factor among the 65% who voted for Macron was a desire to keep Le Pen out. However, what was clear also was that Macron won the day among younger French citizens, who see themselves as part of both Europe and the world community. More than any other group, it seems that they rejected the narrow, bigoted France first philosophy of the neo-Fascist movement headed by Le Pen.
"I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes,“ he said in a televised address from his campaign headquarters. "I respect them. I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It's my responsibility to hear them. I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens."
The question now is: can Macron succeed in turning his En Marché movement into a winning force in the upcoming parliamentary elections. With the major political parties in retreat, it might just happen...
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