The incumbent President Emmanuel Macron has been declared the winner of the 2022 French presidential elections, the final round of which was held on April 24. Unlike his first run for the French presidency in 2017, when he received 66.1 per cent of the vote, President Macron was re-elected with 58.6 per cent of the vote, while far-right candidate Marine Le Pen received 41.4 per cent.

Although the margin of victory for Ms  Le Pen narrowed, Mr Macron became the first sitting French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002, who defeated Ms Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Furthermore, the decline in the high number of votes received by Mr Macron highlights a deeper issue concerning France’s fractured nature along economic, generational, and geographical lines. 

Apart from the usual electoral dividing lines, some uncharacteristic policy issues have emerged due to the global COVID-19 pandemic which combined to impact Mr Macron’s public perception. These have included a backlash against lockdowns, mask mandates, criticisms of Mr Macron’s role in the bungled EU vaccine rollout, and a policy that effectively forced French people to get vaccinated. These actions sparked vocal opposition, which Ms Le Pen used to gain public acceptance, while also taking several actions to soften her party’s image.

Despite a fall in his vote share, President Macron received votes from those aiming to prevent the election of a far-right government, which he praised during his victory speech as a sense of duty and attachment to the Republic’s position in the EU. Many of his second-round voters were on the far-left, but mainstream parties, including the Republicans, Greens and Socialists, also supported him.

Despite his victory, President Macron will face challenges in the “third round” elections for France’s National Assembly in June, where some of the electorates could express their displeasure with his policies. Mr Macron may end up losing his majority, which will prevent him from forming a government, as many of the voters that lent him support against Ms Le Pen are not his natural supporters and are unlikely to back him again.

In addition to the national reaction to the election results, several European Union politicians offer their congratulations to President Macron on his win. Mr Macron’s victory is significant for the EU because his opponent has never hidden her Euroscepticism and desire to lead France away from the EU. Furthermore, Macron’s re-election will mean the continuation of an ambitious project for Europe, in which he will advocate doubling down on his agenda for European sovereignty and strategic autonomy in technology, defence, and mitigating external influences from countries that seek to impose economic embargoes. 

Despite the joy of his re-election reverberating throughout Europe, there have been concerns about the ramifications within the EU as Macron is poised to take over the mantle of the recently retired German chancellor, Angela Merkel. It is now likely that France will receive more influence in European policymaking circles and Mr Macron will be able to pursue his ambitious, integrationist agenda for Europe, and there is a chance that Mr Macron’s plans will be largely unconstrained by French domestic politics. 

To achieve these goals at the EU level, he must be able to do more than manage crises reactively but also steer his European Council colleagues toward proactive policymaking for the benefit of EU citizens. 

Although the current perception of President Macron is, to put it mildly, shaky, commentators are anticipating the National Assembly election in June, to see how he handles his administration in the aftermath of the election results.

By Ellen-Janet Adelakin


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