Reactions to the French elections

The editorial board of The Guardian describes Macron’s win in the first round of the French elections as a “sign of hope” and a “political upheaval”. It also defines the May 7 runoff as “a choice between openness and bigotry, internationalism and nationalism, optimism and hatred, reaction and reform, hope and fear”. Despite the relief for Le Pen’s second place, The Guardian reminds us that far right forces in Europe are not defeated yet, and calls for French citizens to complete the job started on Sunday, with a “centrist revolution”.

Similarly, Sonia Delesalle-Stolper argues that Macron’s success represents a “shock” for French politics, given his unconventional background. Nevertheless, she underlines that the real political battle begins in June, when the political parties will compete for the parliamentary elections. On Vox, Zack Beauchamp, argues that the French vote has shown the limits of far right movements. He claims that political forces such as the Front National suffer from the presence of a “natural ceiling” in terms of the popular support they can obtain. The result of the first round clearly shows that a majority of European citizens does not endorse anti-migrant and anti-EU discourses or policies at the moment.

On Fox News, John Moody takes a more cautious stance on the matter, underlining that the French situation resembles the US Presidential election of last November. Moody claims that most commentators “may be overlooking the anger that native-born, working class French voters harbour against the system”. Last but not least, Moody argues that Le Pen’s supporters have shown a degree of loyalty and enthusiasm that is not comparable to any other. On The Guardian, Natalie Nougayrède warns that, notwithstanding Macron’s striking performance, anti-establishment and anti-globalization sentiments will not disappear overnight in France. The French commentator also argues that a low turnout on May 7 could transform the run-off into a nightmare scenario. Consequently, she rounds on the leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon for not having expressed a clear endorsement of Macron against the Front National.

On Le Monde Francoise Fressoz argues that the elections demonstrate the fall of the left-right opposition and show that a new cleavage splits France in two. Macron called it the “progressive against the conservatives”, whereas Marine Le Pen dubbed it “the Europeans against the patriots”. In any case, according to Fressoz, the political developments in France can be understood as a “political reframing” that entails a major challenge, namely: the “reconquering of popular trust” after a decade of deceptive mainstream politics. Nevertheless, still on Le Monde les Décodeurs highlight the social and geographical cleavages that divide France. The authors argue that the country is split as it was 20 years ago, between metropolitan areas and the countryside.

On Carnegie Europe, Judy Dempsey argues that the success of En Marche! Shows that French “do want change”. Macron’s achievements and public discourse prove that “Europe matters to France, as much as France matters to Europe”. According to Dempsey, France needs this change, as Germany is incapable to push forward the European integration process on its own. The editorial board of The New York Times use more nuanced words in favour of Macron. Although, the US paper welcomes the success of the moderate leader, its editorial board specifies that the hopes for Europe “will ride not just on a win by Mr. Macron, but [also] on his subsequent success in delivering on his commitment”.

Writing on The Guardian, Nicola Slawson argues that the a success of Emmanuel Macron in the run-off may steer the Brexit negotiations towards a hard bargain for the UK. Slawson recalls that Macron described Brexit as a “crime” and stressed the importance of defending the “integrity of the Union”. However, Denis MacShane, on The Independent, claims that Macron is the sign of “grown up politics” in France. Consequently, he calls for Theresa May to become more “serious” about Brexit. More specifically, the British PM should temper her hard stances and understand that European politics is turning. If this is true, the UK would have no interest in continuing to play the hard Brexit game as it has until now. Moreover, MacShane claims that the French elections–after the electoral result in the Netherlands and Austria–show that Europe will not be overcome by a populist right-wing wave, as many have suggested.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC World Economic Forum

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