Grey Anderson in n+1:
WITH 66 PERCENT OF THE POPULAR VOTE, the new president could claim a resounding victory, outperforming polling estimates. Throughout France voters rallied to the En Marche! (EM) eponym, who performed especially well in high-income urban areas—his tally reached 90 percent in Paris, and handsomely surpassed 80 percent in Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, and Lyon. Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN), at one point breaking 40 percent in polls, collapsed after her cack-handed performance in the televised debate on May 4. Projections for the FN candidate promptly sank to 34 percent, matching the final score three days later. Macron won a majority of voters in every age category, every socio-professional group save manual laborers, and all but two of France’s 102 administrative departments. Reasons enough, it might be thought, for satisfaction.
Yet cracks marred the veneer. In 2002, the only other occasion on which the French far right appeared in the second round of a presidential election, Le Pen’s father was routed. Large-scale mobilization against the FN delivered an unprecedented victory to the incumbent Jacques Chirac, his 82 percent landslide earning comparison with Enver Hoxha’s People’s Republic of Albania. At the time, the French elite could bathe in contentment, praising the victory of a republican front and recalling the glories of interwar antifascism. Fifteen years later, no such united front would take shape. Nor was support for the FN, nearly doubled, the sole cause for concern. By some measure the most striking feature of the 2017 run-off was a surge in the number of blank and spoiled ballots—11.5 percent of the total, a record figure and more than twice that clocked in 2002. Together with historic levels of abstention, the highest in almost half a century, this defiant protest left the winner of the election with a mere 43.7 percent of registered voters, a desultory share in the face of his anathematized, fumbling challenger. Of those who did turn up at the polls for Macron, less than half (41 percent) expressed support for the candidate, as opposed to the desire to see his opponent defeated, and an even smaller fraction endorsed his program.