Warning: Le Pen will now install herself as leading opponent of Macronism

Macron's win was overwhelming, but NF leader is claiming her 10,500,000 votes make her the de facto leader of the opposition


French voters have overwhelmingly rejected the re-packaged far-right and installed the centrist ex-banker Emmanuel Macron as the youngest ever leader of a large, democratic country.

Mr Macron, 39, crushed the Front National leader Marine Le Pen by 65.8 per cent to 34.2 per cent on Sunday in the second round of the most extraordinary presidential election in the 60-year history of the Fifth Republic.

The 30-point victory by the pro-European, pro-market and broadly pro-Israeli former economy minister was substantially more comfortable than opinion polls had predicted.

French pollsters and commentators said that Mr Macron received a double boost in the final days of the campaign – from an aggressive but feeble performance by Ms Le Pen in a live TV debate and from voter anger at an apparent attempt by US right-wing activists to destabilise the election.

The result smashes the mould of French party politics and gives Mr Macron an opportunity to push through economic and social reforms which have eluded presidents of centre-right and centre left. His first big test will come in parliamentary elections over two rounds next month when his centrist movement En Marche! – less than 12 months old – will seek to win a majority in the National Assembly.

In his victory address, President-elect Mr Macron, who takes office next week, placed heavy emphasis on his belief in a strong and reformed European Union. “I will defend the vital interests and image of France,” he said. “But I will also defend Europe, which is vital to the defence of our civilisation and to our particular kind of liberty.”

The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, hailed the result as a “triumph for the values of the French Republic” and saluted the millions of voters who turned out to “bar the way to the far-right”.

Minutes after the result was announced, the far-right leader Ms Le Pen, 48,  said that she intended to, in effect, abolish her party and create a “new political force” embracing  the most socially conservative and hard-right elements of other parties. Ms Le Pen claimed that her 34.2 per cent and 10,500,000 votes – record highs for Front National – made her the de facto leader of the opposition.

She said that she would seek “a profound transformation” of the Front National to create a new “political force” uniting all “patriots” in the struggle against Mr Macron’s Europeanism and globalism.

Her claim to be the natural opposition leader was, however, weakened by her relatively poor score – below the symbolically important 40 per cent barrier. Commentators attributed her failure partly to a confused and poisonous performance in last Wednesday’s TV debate.

They also said that many voters had been angered by the massive leak of internal documents from the Macron campaign computers 24 hours before the election. The leak, blamed on US hard-right activists and possibly Russia, produced no embarrassing information but was apparently intended to sow confusion which might benefit Ms Le Pen.

The centre-right Les Republicains and hard-right France Insoumise movements will dispute Ms Le Pen’s right to be considered the leading opponent to Macronism. Both of France’s “normal” governing parties of centre-left and centre-right were eliminated from the presidential contest in the first round.

The centre-right will hope to hold on to a large bloc of its parliamentary seats next month. The Socialists, the biggest party in the outgoing parliament, seem likely to replaced and, in many individual cases, swallowed up by Mr Macron’s movement.

The new President, who has never stood for office of any kind before, has promised to liberalise France’s employment laws, reduce taxes for companies and the middle classes and to lead a drive to reform and strengthen the European Union.

On international affairs – as in many other things – he is untried and somewhat vague. He is a supporter of the state of Israel, a critic of the Netanyahu government and ambivalent on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive