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Macron winning second term in France is politically & historically significant. Here’s why

One of only 4 presidents to be re-elected since 1958, Macron's win triggered angry protests in Paris & Lyon. Macron's majority over far-Right rival Marine Le Pen was halved.

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New Delhi: Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron defeated far-Right rival Marine Le Pen in the round two run-off elections Monday, securing a second five-year term. The 44-year-old Macron bagged over 58 per cent votes, while his opponent received about 41 per cent, according to a preliminary tally.

Several world leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, congratulated Macron on his re-election. Referencing the Ukraine war, US President Joe Biden said, “I look forward to our continued close cooperation — including on supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change.”

Though Macron is the first French president to clinch a re-election in 20 years, his victory triggered angry protests in Paris and Lyon. Protesters reportedly threw fireworks at a police car in Lyon, while police fired tear gas and arrested dozens of them.

Videos of the protests, some of which showed scrap burning, emerged on social media.

The election had seen low voter turnout, with approximately 28 per cent of voters not participating — the highest such number since 1969.

According to experts, Macron’s win over Le Pen — with a slimmer margin than in the last election in 2017 — indicates that the French electorate remains deeply divided. “With Macron unable to serve a third term (not allowed by the country’s constitution), the risk of another polarising standoff in 2027 remains,” warned Bloomberg columnist Lionel Laurent in a recent piece.

Though the far-Right was dealt a blow this time around, Le Pen and her party are gearing up for the upcoming parliamentary election in June. 

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Shrinking lead

French presidential elections are usually held in a two-round process every five years. In the first round, if no candidate wins over 50 per cent of votes, a second round is organised. This is known as the run-off. The candidate with the most votes in the second round is elected President.

In the last presidential elections in 2017, none of the 11 candidates had secured more than 50 per cent of votes in the first round. The top scores had been those of Macron, with 24.01 per cent votes, Le Pen with 21.3 per cent and Jean-Luc Mélenchon — a far-Left candidate — with 21.95 per cent of votes.

In the second round, Macron had won with 66.1 per cent of votes, while Le Pen had only received only about half, at 33.9 per cent.

This year, in the first round, held on 10 April, Macron bagged 27.85 per cent of the votes — a 3.84 per cent increase from his first round performance in 2017 — while Le Pen secured 23.15 per cent of the votes — a 1.85 per cent increase.

In the second round of polling, held Sunday, Macron bagged approximately 58.54 per cent of the votes — a considerable decline from his performance in 2017 — while Le Pen scored 41.46 per cent, with the difference being 17.08. This is about half the margin from last time. Le Pen’s score in the second round is the highest ever achieved by any far-Right candidate in France.

Le Pen, who has professed an anti-immigration stance and called for France to reduce its role in NATO and the EU, said in her concession speech: “This result is [the sign] of a great mistrust against our leaders and against European leaders, a message they cannot ignore…Voters have shown they want a strong opposition power to Macron.”

Re-election rare in France

In May 2002, then-President Jacques Chirac secured a re-election after beating far-Right opponent Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father.

The 2002 elections were considered unique, as it was the first time the French far-Right qualified for the second round of a presidential election. Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked many by beating Lionel Jospin, who had previously served as the country’s prime minister between 1997 to 2002, to make it to the run-off round. Jospine had lost by a margin of 1 per cent.

No French President since Chirac was re-elected since, till Macron. In fact, it is widely viewed as unusual for a French President to win a second term.

Since 1958, France has had eight presidents, three of whom have been re-elected.

“At elections in France, one political force is frequently taken over by another, if not at the presidential, then certainly at the legislative level,” Émeric Bréhier, a former MP and director of the political observatory at the Jean Jaurès Foundation, was quoted as saying by news outlet The Local France, earlier this month.

Only five presidents, since the formation of the Fifth Republic — as the present government set up in France is known — in 1958, have attempted to win re-elections, meaning that the success rate for those seeking to do so is 60 per cent, added the report.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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