Jonathan Miller

The French have voted for the lesser of two evils

Emmanuel Macron at his Champ de Mars victory rally. Image: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images
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Few scenes of jubilation as Emmanuel Macron was re-elected President. French voters held their noses and voted without evident enthusiasm for five more years.

French exit predictions, based on actual voting, not exit polls, are invariably lethally on target. As the polls closed they forecast 57.6 per cent for Macron, 42.4 per cent for Marine Le Pen. The official result will be certified on Tuesday but there’s no doubt.

We were supposed to pretend that we didn’t know who had won the French presidential election until after 8 p.m. when the polls closed in the bigger cities. But the French exit predictions are fast and accurate so the Tweets and WhatsApps were coded: Poudré 54-58 per cent. Cat Woman 42-46 per cent.

But abstentions were strikingly high. The turnout at 7 p.m. was 71.8 per cent, lower than the first round and lower than any presidential elections since 1969 according to Liberation. In its words, such a high abstention rate ‘invites modesty – and underlines how much this [election] displeased the French. As five years ago, voters even turned away more from the polls in the second round than in the first. Five years ago, more than three million voters slipped a blank ballot into the ballot box - to which were added a million invalid ballots. How many were there, this Sunday, to thus mark their refusal to choose?’

But for now, Le Pen’s political career should now be over. She did better than in 2017 when she was crushed by Macron, 66-34 per cent. This is her third successive failure to be elected president. Yet in her combative concession speech on Sunday, she sounded as if she would go on and on, leading her party to one defeat after another.

But the decisive victory is hardly a great endorsement of Macron, either. The president was elected as the lesser of two evils.

‘As a French woman who cannot stand Macron and despises Le Pen, I’m staying away from the news. It’s a nightmare. I’ll cry when I vote Macron,’ said Nana, a voter yesterday, preparing to cast her ballot for Emmanuel Macron.

The poor French will now have to vote all over again in June for the National Assembly, which is likely to be a hotbed of resistance to Macron. His hope of assembling a presidential majority in the Assembly look slender.

Written byJonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, who lives near Montpellier, is the author of ‘France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (Gibson Square). His Twitter handle is: @lefoudubaron

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