The first round of the French elections was surprising if we compare the expectations of the French people five months ago with the final result putting Emmanuel Macron in first, followed by the other finalist Marine Le Pen. François Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon finished the race in 3rd and 4th place, respectively, with only 152,912 votes separating the two of them!
There are many lessons and observations to take from this, but we are going to make do with those that concern the societal aspect: a fractured French society:
- Without a formal party only a year ago and with little political background, Emmanuel Macron has been preferred, up until now, by the French over other “professional” candidates leading a party or candidates from political parties. There was a sort of defection between the French and the traditional French political offering, and it will not stop at just the presidential election.
- With the Left searching to define and position itself in 2017 within a globalized context that is becoming more and more open while simultaneously being increasingly threatened by nationalism, the electors looked for an atypical path, announcing their divorce with those in power and traditional parties: the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Workers’ Struggle, etc. “La France insoumise” [Defiant France] and “En Marche” [Forward] seemed to better respond to the aspirations of the Left’s supporters.
- The appeals by the leaders from the Right (François Fillon, Gérard Larcher, Alain Juppé, Pierre Raffarin, François Baroin, etc.) to vote against M. Le Pen and for E. Macron did not seem to create massive support from other leaders (N. Morano, E. Ciotti, L. Wauquiez) and campaigners, or even supporters of the Right and Center. A gulf now separates the latter from the traditional ruling class.
While waiting for the final between E. Macron and M. Le Pen on May 7, 2017, we cannot help but wonder who will succeed the most in bridging this fracture and bringing France together? Even with a score of 60% in the second round, it cannot be assumed that there will be a coalition. This is the real question that the new President of the Republic will need to answer.