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Macron's challenge to mend France's fractured political landscape


France

Macron's challenge to mend France's fractured political landscape

For many in France, Emmanuel Macron’s decisive victory over Marine Le Pen sparked a wave of enthusiasm and optimism.

Nevertheless, the country remains politically fractured. On the one hand, voters in big cities came out strongly in favour of Macron’s pro-European vision, while on the other hand Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration and pro-nationalist agenda appealed to many in rural as well as in the poorer and industrial north-east.

Macron secured a majority in almost all French “départments” or regions apart from Aisne and Pas-de-Calais, Le Pen’s stronghold.

She also had strong support in some Mediterranean communities, namely Var and southern Corsica.

The West and South-West voted massively for Macron, foremost in regions that vote traditionally left such as Brittany.

Macron achieved his best results in Paris with around 90% and other big cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux. Marseille was a notable exception.

High abstentionism

This presidential election will also be remembered for the highest abstention rate since 1969 although it has significantly soared over recent years. (2017: 25%, 2012: 20%, 2007: 16%)

Furthermore, 2017 is also a record year for blank votes with around 9% favouring neither candidate. In total, more than one out of three French citizens refused to vote either for Macron or Le Pen.

Macron’s majority appeal

In contrast to 2002, Macron couldn’t rely on the votes of the so-called “republican front”.

Back then, Jacques Chirac faced Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2nd round of the presidential election. Chirac won with a historic score of more than 82% of the votes, because supporters of rival parties rallied behind him to stop France from having an extreme-right head of state.

This time, a large number of French voters don’t want either a far-right or centrist president whom many see as a defender of austerity and globalisation.

While Macron appears to have bridged the traditional gap between right and left by gaining widespread support for his liberal-minded programme, he now must convince the country that he needs a clear majority in June’s general elections to enforce his reforms.