French Election

Marco DiPierro, Writer

Have you ever wondered about elections from different countries? If so then learn a bit about the most recent election in France.

Center-left, social liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron beat right wing candidate Marine Le Pen, during France’s runoff presidential election on April 24th, being reelected to a second term. Macron became the first French president to be re-elected since Jacques Chirac was re-elected in 2002, running against Jean-Marine Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father. 


Macron ran against Marine Le Pen during his initial election bid in 2017, where he was elected in a landslide election and proved to be popular. Macron was a former member of France’s Socialist Party (which despite the name was only a center-left social democratic party), however left and became an independent. During the 2017 election cycle, he created a new social liberal political party known as La Republique en Marche! (meaning “The Republic on the Move”, and abbreviated to either En Marche! or just LREM). His party came in first in 2017, with Le Pen’s far-right National Front party in second place, advancing them to the runoffs where Macron won handily. Neither of France’s two traditional center-left and center-right parties failed to make the runoffs for the first time since the creation of the French 5th Republic. 

Macron’s popularity fell off quickly after his election, with the Yellow Vest Protests erupting just a year after his election, after he enacted a “green tax” on fuel as part of his environmental agenda. 

Immigration was a major issue in European politics with a large number of Syrian refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war (which was at its greatest intensity between 2013 and 2017) and entering into Europe seeking asylum. Another source of migrants are economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa; once rare, these migrants began arriving in larger numbers when the collapse of Gaddafi’s government in Libya meant a lack of patrols, as the European Union collaborated with Libya to patrol its coastline and make sure no one was trying to cross the Mediterranean. Most European leftists and social liberals wanted European countries to take in large amounts of migrants and refugees; meanwhile right wingers wanted strict immigration limits, pointing to cultural incompatibility, along with a rise in terrorism and crime connected to refugees. 

Macron himself flip-flopped on his immigration stance. In 2017 he “considered immigrants a viable asset” and wanted to make it easier for immigrants to enter France, he also praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal immigration policies. However after pushback from the right wing, he toughened his stance on immigration in an attempt to gain more conservative votes. Some believed this tactic wasn’t going to work as it would alienate moderates and center-left voters, while right-wingers still wouldn’t be inclined to vote for him. 

Major Candidates:

Emmanuel Macron (La République En Marche!, “The Republic on the Move”):

Macron was the incumbent candidate, running for reelection. He was elected back in 2017 with little political experience, only holding a few ministerial positions beforehand, and was running under a brand new party. Macron is generally considered social liberal; however, he describes himself as centrist, far right wingers tend to call him left wing, and many far-leftists accuse him of being right wing. Originally more lenient on key issues back in 2017 such as refugees and immigration, he has gotten tougher over time

Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National,National Rally”):

Marine Le Pen was Macron’s main opponent back in 2017. She’s the daughter of far right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, member of the French parliament, and former member of the EU parliament. She took over control of his party, the National Front. She made efforts to make the party more moderate in both 2017 and even more so in 2022. In both 2017 and 2022 her main views were against globalism, immigration in France, but in 2022 made little mention of them specifically and mostly focused on attacking Macron. This tactic was almost the opposite of what Macron was doing by promoting a tougher stance on immigration.


Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise, “France Unbowed”):

Mélenchon, also a member of the French parliament and previously the EU parliament, is the perennial “far left” candidate in French politics, coming in fourth in the 2017 presidential election, and narrowly in third in 2022. He wanted to focus on an economic and climate agenda instead of immigration, which is one of the more pressing issues in French politics. He is opposed to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!, “Reconquest!”):

Zemmour was another far right candidate, who was seen as being more outspoken and extreme than Le Pen was and hoped to draw some votes. Zemmour was very anti-immigration, wanting to create a Ministry of Remigration to repatriate refugees and deport illegal migrants to their home countries, plus he wanted to impose strict limits on the number of migrants that could enter. He also proposed lower taxes, and less environmentalism.


Valérie Pécresse (Republican party):

Pécresse was the leader of the Republican party, along with its predecessors, such as the Union for a Popular Movement party, it is the “traditional” center-right party in France. However, the party, along with its traditional rival, the center-left French Socialist Party, failed to make the second round in both 2017 and 2022, in fact, 2022 being the worst presidential election result in the history of both parties. Pécresse wanted more modest immigration reform and was also a supporter of French nationalism. She was also a former member of the French parliament and is the premier of the Ile-de-France region of France.



In the first round, Macron came in first place with nearly 28% of the vote, almost 4 percentage points higher than what he got in 2017’s first round. Le Pen came in second place again, with a slightly lower percentage, however this can be attributed to a vote split between Le Pen and Zemmour. Mélenchon came in third, up one place and 2 percentage points higher than his 2017 result. Zemmour himself, although a rising star at the beginning of the presidential race, lost steam but ended up coming in fourth place with 7% of the vote. Pécresse, the leader of France’s mainstream conservative party, came in fifth, with her party down two places since 2017 when it was led by François Fillon. The Republicans also lost over 16 percentage points between 2017 and 2022, making this the worst result in the history of the party or any of its previous incarnations. Anne Hidalgo, the leader of France’s more traditional and mainstream center-left party, the Socialist Party, came in 10th place, also making it the worst result in the history of her party. The Socialist Party only won 1.7% of the vote and dropped 5 places since 2017, with the party fading into irrelevance.

After the first round, most major political candidates backed Macron for reelection. Exceptions were Zemmour, who told his voters to support Le Pen, and Mélenchon, who disliked Macron and never explicitly supported him, but told his voters to not vote for Le Pen. Some people believed that Le Pen would have a chance of winning because Eurosceptic left wingers would rather vote for her than for Macron, however there was a high abstention rate among Mélenchon’s supporters, 33% of which were going to vote for Macron, and 66% of which were not going to vote at all.

Macron’s lead over Le Pen had been tightening, but a few days before the election, the gap widened and on election day, Macron won with 58% of the vote, while Le Pen received 41%, both candidates lost and gained 8% of the vote respectively. People have attributed Le Pen’s better performance in the election to her presenting herself as more moderate, and with the unpopularity of Macron’s presidency. The abstention rate in the election was 28%, the highest in 50 years, due to the unpopularity of both candidates. 

The outcome of the election had some effect on French social politics. Although Le Pen had changed her policies to appear more moderate, such as no longer saying she wanted France to leave the European Union, many of her social policies didn’t. Le Pen wanted to reduce immigration and to ban Muslim headscarves to be worn in public. Although Macron has also promised to lower immigration slightly, Le Pen called for a wider ban which would’ve likely affected the European Union and neighboring countries such as the UK, which gets most of its immigrants through France. Banning the headscarf in public would’ve likely led to a breakdown in relations between France and many Muslim countries (a similar situation happened when Switzerland banned the construction of new minarets in 2009, the UN and many Muslim countries claimed the law was Islamophobic). Le Pen also had close relations with Russia, and despite condemning the invasion, she has said that she wants to maintain close relations with Russia and opposed the sanctions. If France had gotten rid of sanctions, it would’ve faced backlash from the international community, yet it would’ve likely impacted the Russian economy. Macron’s win means that none of this will happen, although he has promised that his second term will not be like his first, and he will instead focus on other issues.