Populist challenger Marine Le Pen lost her second battle with Emmanuel Macron for the French presidency, but her progress in several areas and demographics may represent a sea-change in European politics.
Le Pen, burdened in many ways by the legacy of her father Jean-Marie — a man fined multiple times for Holocaust denial who claimed only 17.8 per cent of the vote when he made the second round of France’s presidential elections in 2002 — was defeated by Macron with 41.5 per cent of the vote to his 58.5 per cent on Sunday, but this seemingly comfortable margin of victory masks some key concerns for the globalist incumbent.
Firstly, it is a much less emphatic margin of victory than in 2017, when he took 66.10 per cent of the vote to Le Pen’s 33.90 per cent — and this despite the fact that Macron vowed in 2017 that his would be a unifying presidency which would “do everything in the five years to come so there is no more reason to vote for the extremes,” as he characterises Le Pen’s national populist politics.
This is despite the fact that both traditional parties of government in France, the Republicans and the Socialist Party for which Macron was once economy minister, backed him for the presidency — a situation akin to America’s Republicans and Democrats backing a joint candidate for U.S. President, or Britain’s Conservatives (Tories) and Labour Party backing a joint candidate for a directly-elected Prime Minister.
Four in ten French voters rejecting Macron in favour of a candidate derided as a far-rightist stooge for Vladimir Putin, accused of embezzlement by the European Union suspiciously close to election day, represents a massive loss of faith in mainstream politics, especially when coupled with the lowest turnout since 1969.
La sociologie des électorats : 54% des jeunes de 18-14 ans qui ont voté ont opté pour Emmanuel Macron. Contre 64% des 60-69 ans et 74% des 70 ans et plus
— Edouard Reis Carona (@ereiscarona) April 24, 2022
Breakdowns of voter demographics by pollsters, while not definitive, also indicate trouble ahead for the political class, with Le Pen appearing to have beaten Macron decisively in the battle for the working-class vote and either defeating or just barely falling short of him among Millennials aged 25 to 34 — a demographic often derided as insufferably “woke” in other Western European countries and the U.S.
Interestingly, Le Pen may have edged out Macron among voters aged 50 to 59 as well — a segment of Generation X which made many of the same sacrifices as baby boomers but did not reap the same financial rewards, and today face persistent pressure from “fiscal conservatives” who want their state retirement age to be raised.
The affluent and the oldest generations already enjoying the fruits of retirement, perhaps unsurprisingly, seem to have voted decisively for Macron, as have Generation Z voters aged 18 to 24 — although these “zoomers” are seemingly more open to Le Pen than their grandparents, with roughly four in ten estimated to have backed her.
18-24-year-olds also appear to have skipped voting in the largest numbers of any age cohort, with Le Monde putting abstentions at 41 per cent.
🇷🗳️ Le vote au second tour en fonction de la catégorie socioprofessionnelle, données @IpsosFrance. Large domination de Macron chez les cadres et les retraités, mais Le Pen le devance nettement parmi les ouvriers et les employés. pic.twitter.com/V3lvdQnuiS
— mathieu gallard (@mathieugallard) April 24, 2022
Le Pen also appears to have performed strongly in the countryside and smaller rural towns, while Macron’s strongholds remain multicultural urban centres such as Paris and the relatively prosperous west.
The populist won more than 60 per cent of the vote in over 6,500 municipalities, increasingly her strength in the north and establishing new bastions along the Mediterranean coast and on the island of Corsica — progress that could bode ill for Macron in the French parliamentary elections in June.
Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal, a former parliamentarian for her party who actually backed rival populist Eric Zemmour in the first round of the presidential election, is pushing for a united right coalition to contest those elections — a development which would pose further challenges for the president, if it comes off.
Voici la carte mise à jour ce lundi matin à 10h ! pic.twitter.com/eglMe1jdyh
— Ouest-France (@OuestFrance) April 25, 2022
Interestingly, Macron performed very strongly among French citizens who do not actually live under his government, winning over 86.1 per cent of voters abroad compared to 13.9 per cent for Le Pen — a decrease in support for the president of only 3.2 per cent compared to 2017.
Macron performed poorly in France’s overseas territories in the Americas, however, with Le Pen defeating the President with massive, two-point swings almost everywhere — a dramatic reversal of the voting pattern in 2017.
He performed better in France’s Oceanian territories, however, losing to Le Pe in Tahiti but taking a fairly comfortable first in most other places.
Presidential run-off election (preliminary final result)
Le Pen (RN, right): 70% (+45)
Macron (EC, centre to centre-right): 30% (-45)
(+/- vs. 2017 election)
— America Elects (@AmericaElige) April 24, 2022