Monday, April 25, 2022

Emmanuel Macron Wins French Presidential Election, Beats Marine Le Pen (VIDEO)

Big story, at CNN, "Emmanuel Macron wins France’s presidential election."

But maybe a bigger story, here, WSJ, "Even in Defeat, Marine Le Pen Leads France’s Far Right Closer to Power":

Candidate won 41.5% of the vote, showing that her once-fringe party is a political contender.

PARIS—Marine Le Pen fell short of her goal of attaining France’s highest office, but her campaign laid the groundwork for the far right to become an enduring force in French politics.

With 41.5% of the vote, Ms. Le Pen won a greater share of the electorate than any far-right presidential candidate in France’s post-World War II era. In doing so, the 53-year-old politician transformed a party that was once a fringe insurgency into a real contender.

The result, Ms. Le Pen told her supporters Sunday, “represents a striking victory,” adding: “The French have shown tonight their desire for a strong check to the power of Emmanuel Macron.”

Ms. Le Pen’s 17-point loss to Mr. Macron was wider than some polls had estimated but it was a significant improvement on her 32-point loss to him five years ago.

Ms. Le Pen gained ground by hitting on a new strategy that focused on the economic problems of the French working class. She toned down her anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign. Ms. Le Pen also shifted her party’s anti-European stance, saying she no longer wants to withdraw from the European Union’s common currency, the euro, a move that has little popular support in France.

The approach allowed her to cobble together a broader coalition of middle- and working-class voters living outside France’s big cities, in areas where the forces of globalization have closed factories, wages are stagnant and the rising cost of living has hit households hard. Those voters include traditional conservatives and even some on the left drawn by Ms. Le Pen’s attacks on the economic and cultural elite.

“She represents so much for so many French people,” said Jérôme Auvray, a member of Ms. Le Pen’s party who lives in the outskirts of Paris. “She is still young…She should run again in five years.”

Still, Ms. Le Pen’s drive to broaden her party’s appeal faces deep skepticism among many French. Ms. Le Pen’s father, the far-right ideologue Jean-Marie Le Pen, co-founded the party in the 1970s, calling it the National Front and adopting the neofascist tricolor flame as its symbol. Ms. Le Pen changed the name in 2018 to National Rally. She kept the symbol.

“A cat can’t bark,“ said Ludovic Seynaeve de Daussé, a 55-year-old retired military man from northern France who didn’t vote in the runoff after casting a first-round ballot for far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon. ”The National Front will always be the National Front.”

Ms. Le Pen ran on a platform that would impose far-reaching changes long supported by the far right. She wanted to ban wearing the Muslim head scarf in public, claw back powers from the European Union and change the French constitution to give priority to French nationals over immigrants, including documented ones.

Ms. Le Pen said in February that she wouldn’t run again for president if she lost but also that she wouldn’t retire from politics. At the party’s election-night gathering in Paris on Sunday, Ms. Le Pen’s supporters, some in tears, grappled with another election loss. Many wanted Ms. Le Pen to run again.

Would-be successors are waiting in the wings, including Jordan Bardella, the 26-year-old acting president of National Rally, and Marion Maréchal, Ms. Le Pen’s niece. Eric Zemmour, the television pundit turned presidential candidate, made fighting immigration and Islamist influence his signature issues, seeking to wrest control of the far right from Ms. Le Pen. Mr. Zemmour fizzled in the first round of the elections, drawing only 7.1% of the vote.

On Sunday, Mr. Zemmour called on supporters of France’s conservative party, National Rally and other far-right movements to come together.

“We must forget our quarrels and unite our forces,” Mr. Zemmour said.

Sonia Peneloup, a painter and National Rally activist who attended Sunday night’s gathering, said she supported Mr. Bardella as a potential successor but wondered whether a change at the helm was enough to get the party over the hump. “Would it make a difference? Frankly, I don’t think the French are ready,” she said.

Ms. Le Pen’s defeat follows a decadeslong push by France’s far right to win the presidency. When her father founded the party, its strident anti-immigrant stance made it a fringe movement in European politics. Mr. Le Pen was convicted of anti-Semitism in the 1980s for describing Nazi gas chambers as a “detail of World War II history.”

A breakthrough came in 2002, when Mr. Le Pen shocked the world by qualifying for the presidential runoff. More than a million French people took to the streets to denounce Mr. Le Pen’s candidacy. The incumbent, Jacques Chirac, ended up trouncing Mr. Le Pen by a margin of 64 percentage points.

In 2011, Ms. Le Pen inherited the party and set about remaking its image, a process the party called “de-demonization.” She ousted her father from the party in 2015 after he repeated his comment about Nazi gas chambers.

In 2017, Ms. Le Pen reached the presidential runoff for the first time. Her campaign ran aground due to her unpopular push to drop the euro. She lost to Mr. Macron, then a political neophyte, in a 32-point landslide.

Ms. Le Pen focused her 2022 campaign on pocketbook issues such as her fight against inflation. She also zeroed in on the impact that the war in Ukraine was having on France’s economy, particularly the higher fuel prices that affect working-class commuters. She promised to slash taxes on fuel and other essentials if elected.

Ms. Le Pen began opening up about her personal life, softening her reputation as a hard-nosed ideologue. She mused publicly about her love of cats and discussed her childhood as the daughter of Mr. Le Pen. Ms. Le Pen was eight when a bomb targeting her father destroyed their apartment in Paris.

“I was made to pay for my father’s commitment,” she said at a rally in February.

“She is one of us,” said Isabelle Flouret, a 48-year-old widow from Hénin-Beaumont, a town in northern France where Ms. Le Pen cut her teeth on the municipal council. “My children call her Auntie Marine.”

Competition from Mr. Zemmour also softened Ms. Le Pen’s public image, because his fiery anti-immigrant rhetoric at times made her seem tame by comparison for some of the electorate...