French newspapers on the presidential election: ‘A political earthquake whose aftershocks will be long lasting’

24 April 2017 – VoxEurop

The day after the first round of the presidential election, which saw the independent centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron and europhobic far-right candidate Marine Le Pen qualify for the second round, the French press agreed in saying a new political era has dawned.

If the trend is confirmed, the first round of the election marks the end of the era of two-party domination – between Gaullists and Socialists – and where traditional parties risk being demoted to second tier actors, faced with more dynamic movements better able to respond to French voters’ anxieties. Translated from the French by Simon Pickstone

For Alexis Brézet, with the defeat of right-wing candidate François Fillon, “the unloseable lost. The unthinkable happened. The impossible has arrived.” The director of Le Figaro writes that


The right, which for five years has demolished the Socialists in every election, the right, whose ideas and values have never been so widely shared across the whole country, this right for whom victory was inevitable was, yesterday, simply eliminated. Although the desire for a shift to the right, after a presidential term unanimously judged to be calamitous, has never been so powerful, it will not be, for the first time in its history, represented in the second round of the presidential election.

“Victory for Macron, muted success for Le Pen, downfall for Fillon, breakthrough for Mélenchon: what a country!” exclaims Laurent Joffrin. For the head of the left-wing daily


France, divided for two centuries between right and left, has chosen a newby, responsible for an astonishing rout and a candidate from the extreme right with a lower score than she had hoped, leaving right and left by the wayside. France, disillusioned by its political class, must have dragged its heels to the booths: what has happened is a civic uprising. [...] France, finally, has irrevocably rejected the Hollande administration: it has put in the lead an advisor, then minister, of that very same Hollande administration, for the slightly more liberal variation of the policies they have up till now vilified. [...] The second round will therefore oppose social-liberalism against nationalism, openness against closedness, a united Europe against France alone. In principle, thanks to supporters of the Republic from all parties, the young candidate who came first in this round should prevail against the wicked stepmother. But the FN has won the highest score in its history at a presidential election. And if the battle turns into a confrontation between the people and the elite, who can say for sure what the result will be? In a new world, anything is possible.

The result of the first round of the presidential election “is a political earthquake whose aftershocks will be long lasting,” notes François Ernenwein. For the director of the Catholic daily,


A radical political recomposition is now underway. [...] The second round will oppose two visions of the future and two distinct projects. Marine Le Pen’s programme offers France a strategy of inward retreat accompanied by major rejections – of the European Union and the euro, of foreigners present on French soil... An implicit Frexit. [...] Against her, Emmanuel Macron embodies a form of continuity if one takes at face value what he has revealed of his intentions. His proposals continue in the social-liberal policies of François Hollande, maintaining France’s anchorage in Europe, streamlining and modernising the country’s economic and political governance.

For Etienne Lefèbvre, “the fact that the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen has managed, like her father, to qualify for the second round, with a project that would lead the country to ruin and isolation, is a humiliation for all the established parties, with the Socialists now shattered and, more particularly, for the right, which has been denied a second round in an election judged four months ago to be unloseable.” The editor-in-chief of Les Echos argues that the vote –


illustrates the depth of the political and social crisis afflicting the country. [...] One should never make light of the presence of the extreme right in the second round. [...] Despite the threat of terrorism, which should favour the extremist vote, she finished behind Emmanuel Macron, a novice candidate, supported by a political grouping launched barely one year ago, and who should start this second round as the clear favourite. [...] The score of the second round and the size of the turnout will be determining elements in showing that the extreme right is not and cannot be an option for government, and to give the next occupant of the Elysée palace the necessary boost to carry out deep reforms of the country. It is not yet won.

“It is an entirely new page of the history of the Fifth Republic that French voters have opened, this Sunday 23 April, by eliminating from the presidential election all the representatives of the political parties that, under one name or another, have governed in the past decades,” argues Nicolas Beytout. The director of the conservative daily adds that –


The fruit of anger and an electoral campaign full of surprises, this first round of the presidential election in any case leads us into the great unknown. Not so much in terms of the second round – the glass ceiling should once again stop Marine Le Pen from winning a majority – but in terms of what happens after. [...] What Emmanuel Macron has already achieved is exceptional. In the French system, where politicians are neither born nor die in one go, his ascendency and the enthusiasm he has generated are certainly historic. But in turning the established order on its head, the the arrival of the leader of En Marche! at the Elysée palace will bring another period of uncertainty until the legislative elections. And perhaps beyond.

“One by one the planets seemed to have aligned,” observes Stéphane Albouy, in reference to Emmanuel Macron’s good fortune:


An outgoing president forced to give up running again. Competitors who neutralised each other and opponents who successively tripped up. For months, the obstacles on the long path to the Elysée palace have disappeared one by one for Emmanuel Macron. The candidate who, we must remember, has never before stood for any election until now, only owes his success to his opponents’ failures. He has therefore also answered the call for renewal expressed by French voters, which ended in this great upheaval. [...] Even if the major candidates, with the notable exception of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have called on voters to block Marine Le Pen, the FN’s march forward has not been put to a halt, far from it.”

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