French President Emmanuel Macron has been reelected to the position following France’s general election last Sunday, garnering 58.5% of the vote. Macron, a member of the liberal En Marche party, successfully fended off challenger Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Rally party’s candidate. Macron is the third president in France’s history to win a second term, following former presidents Francois Mitterand (1981-1995) and Jacques Cirac (1995 to 2007).
Sunday’s run off election occurred because no candidate managed to win more than 50% of the vote during the first round of elections in early April. Le Pen and Macron, as the two candidates with the most votes, advanced to the second round. The French electorate appears to be increasingly polarized. According to data compiled by BBC News, extremist candidates on the left and the right won 58% of the vote during the first round.
Le Pen is a member of the National Assembly and the daughter of former National Rally party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. She and Macron faced off before during the 2017 presidential election. Her share of the vote jumped from 33.9% in 2017 to 41.5% in 2022. Though she was defeated, the narrower margin could indicate that far-right rhetoric is gaining mainstream popularity in France. Europe has been rocked by inflation in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially when it comes to food and energy prices. In the wake of this instability and the lasting fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, some voters seem to have been attracted to the idea of significant change. However, Macron’s promise of security seems to have won voters over, including a reluctant alliance of many who dislike Macron but could not stomach Le Pen’s right wing views.
Macron must now shift his focus to National Assembly elections in June. If the En Marche party is unable to maintain a majority in the French parliament, Macron may not be able to get his policies passed— especially if more extreme parties form a coalition that excludes the centrist En Marche. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, member of the far-left La France Insoumise party, is aiming to become Prime Minister. He won 21.95% of the vote during the first round of elections, just behind Le Pen at 23.15% and Macron 27.84%.