Macron’s Win Is Not Populism’s Defeat
French President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected because he succeeded in presenting himself as the epitome of the efficient, competent administrator. But the election also showed that more voters than ever want the system blown up, not better managed.
ATHENS – French President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election by a comfortable margin against an opponent with whom he shares a mutual dislike almost obscured a certain co-dependence between their political camps. Macron and his opponent, the far-right Marine Le Pen, may loathe each other, but they have developed a type of political symbiosis that provides crucial insights into the current predicament in France, Europe, and beyond.
The specter of a Le Pen victory has sustained a tradition of helping incumbents return to the Elysée. Before Macron, 20 years ago, Jacques Chirac united 82% of the electorate against Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
But this time was different. In 2002, fear of Jean-Marie Le Pen forged Chirac’s triumph. In 2022, it was more of a two-way street: while Le Pen certainly helped Macron assemble a clear majority of voters, Macron also bolstered Le Pen. The result speaks for itself: an ultra-rightist won 42% of the vote. Over the past five years, the Macron-Le Pen co-dependence grew, and not in spite of the two opponents’ mutual antipathy but at least partly because of it.