While favored all along to win, Emanuel Macron beat many observers’ expectations for margin of victory in the May election. But he did so amid the lowest voter turnout in the last three presidential elections, and with a record number of ‘blank’ protest votes cast. The number one reason cited for casting a vote for Macron? Keeping Le Pen out of office. 16% because of his policies, 8% because of his personality.
For those reasons, and because he was elected at the helm of a newly founded party, many thought it impossible to gain a majority in the parliamentary elections. As we are finding out this week, he is beating these expectations as well, with his En Marche! party set to win a big majority. But, yet again, the voter turnout for the parliamentary elections was historically low. The lowest in modern French history, in fact. And discontent comes from both the right and left.
With Macron’s surprising success, along with a surge in support for Angela Merkel in Germany and setbacks for the 5-Star movement in Italy, it looks today like populism is on the wane in Europe. By most media accounts it has been roundly defeated. But don’t expect discontent with the establishment to go away so easily. It is still festering below the surface.
Conservative and left-wing opponents speak following the French parliamentary elections of widening divisions in French society, from Reuters:
“It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidentials and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation,” said Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis as results flowed in.
Francois Baroin, who ran the campaign of conservative party The Republicans, echoed these sentiments, saying political power should not be concentrated in the hands of one party and urging supporters to turn out on June 18 for the decisive second round.
“Today fewer than half of French people expressed a preference,” he said. “This record level of abstention… bears witness to the continuing fractures in French society… They are neither forgotten nor wiped away.”