From top: French president-elect Emmanuel Macron; Shane Heneghan
In a conciliatory speech yesterday evening, Emmanuel Macron greeted his unexpectedly strong victory of 66% to Marine Le Pen’s 34% in a slightly more sombre mood than some might have expected.
There are several reasons for this. Perhaps he has the current incumbent, Francois Hollande in mind – a man who came to power five short years ago on a message of hope and change who shall leave the Elyse Palace next weekend with negligible approval ratings and without having made any serious dent on an unemployment rate of 10%.
That 34% of voters choose a Fascist, with a capital F, over him will also be in the back of his head and despite the Front National’s loss, obtaining over a third of votes cast remains a remarkable achievement for a party that begin life as a ragbag of Vichy apologists and holocaust deniers.
Yet more sobering for the President elect is the number of people who did not bother to vote at all. At 74%, turnout was at a near record low (though by contrast, it’s worth noting that only one Irish election has reached this level in the past 35 years).
Many of those voters who sat this one out may be eager to take part in next month’s Parliamentary election and frustrate the new President’s efforts to put together a coherent majority thus hamstringing his ability to deliver on his promises.
But perhaps, one notable detail of the result is likely to stick in his mind. Unlike Brexit and Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen has remarkably strong support among younger voters. T
his will perhaps be firmly in his mind when dealing with a youth unemployment rate of nearly 24%- if he finds time to do this between restructuring the euro and reforming the French public service.
Don’t get me wrong. The rise of this guy has been meteoric. He was unknown five years ago. His party didn’t exist 14 months ago and on Sunday, he will take charge of the world’s fifth largest economy and get the codes for Europe’s largest nuclear arsenal.
But his demeanour at the very least seems to show us a man who also sees the writing on the wall. Macron has five years to succeed where Hollande failed or he will hand Le Pen the Presidency in 2022.
Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan