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CWA # 735, 15 May 2022

France Presidential Elections 2022
Five reasons why Emmanuel Macron won

  Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

Due to the rise of the right and especially the far right of France, Macron was able to secure his candidacy as a centrist appealing to both spectrums of people.

1. Macron as a progressive champion for pro-European liberals
Macron has always been on a mission to create a new centrist party. He could bridge the traditional divide in French politics and attract voters from both sides – left and right. In 2017, he won the elections with the support of centrist voters of the right and the left. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s elimination in the first round of elections boosted Macron’s vote share in the second round. It restored his image as a progressive champion for pro-European liberals and the left's votes. 

Macron was also supported by a larger number of candidates post the first round. Candidates such as Valerie Pécresse, Les Républicains; Yannick Jadot, Europe Ecologie Les Verts; Fabien Roussel, Parti Communiste; and Anne Hidalgo, Parti Socialiste supported his case. Le Pen was endorsed only by Eric Zemmour and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. 

2. The Jean-Luc Mélenchon factor
In the first round of elections, Macron majorly won the votes of the French populace on mainland France. Mélenchon and Le Pen shared the votes of France’s overseas territories. In the second round, with Mélenchon asking his voters not to support Le Pen, Macron won the majority of the vote share in the overseas regions and on the mainland. 
Regions like Reunion, Mayotte, Martinique and Guadeloupe voted in favour of Macron. Le Pen pushed her social populist strategy while Macron too pushed to attract Mélenchon’s vote share. Le pen did win in some areas of France and its overseas territories. However, she could not obtain a larger vote share as Mélenchon’s supporters were inclined to vote for Macron as he belonged to a sociological profile similar to Jean-Luc Mélenchon. 

3. Rise of the right and the far-right
In the 2022 elections, compared to the polls in 2017, Le Pen reduced the gap in vote share between Macron and her. In 2017, she had won 33.0 per cent, while in 2022, she won 44.5 per cent. Le Pen conceded her defeat and mentioned, “We have nevertheless been victorious.” Her statements come as the right and far-right in France have gained ground since the previous elections. In addition, Le Pen attracted a majority of the working-class voters from many rural and suburban districts, which indicated that Macron’s second term would receive resistance unless he won the June 2022 elections and created political cohesion in France. Yet, Macron could secure the majority of votes for her policies and manifesto. The majority in France did not favour her anti-Europe stance and her position with Russia. 

Zemmour's rise highlights the recent trend of the rising far-right in France acquiring more prominence. His quick advancement to political candidacy indicated that the French public had moved further right in a country where policies like social welfare and labour protections have dominated society's backbone. Thus, even though his vote share was not as expected at the polls, he did help Le Pen distinguish herself from the far right, which helped her gain more votes than Mélenchon in the second round. 

Due to the rise of the right and especially the far right of France, Macron was able to secure his candidacy as a centrist appealing to both spectrums of people. 

4. Invalid ballots and 28 per cent of abstentions 
The Presidential elections witness 28 per cent abstentions, the highest in France in over 50 years. Many young people in France have been abstaining from voting, citing that they could only vote for a candidate than an individual they support. The issue of France’s voting system was highlighted in the 2022 and the 2017 elections, as many voters who abstained from voting said the system did not represent them. And with the rise of inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising femicide in France and the war in Ukraine, the younger generation feels the voting practice is not an effective participation practice.

The 13,600,000 voters in France who abstained from voting could have changed the outcome of the result if they had participated. If one adds the invalid ballots and abstentions among the recognised votes, then technically, Macron was re-elected with only 38.5 per cent votes. Therefore, if the young voters had not abstained and had voted for Le PenIn a hypothetical scenario, she could have become the President. 

5. Macron’s global image 
Macron had far-sighted visions for the EU and Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi, who endorsed a plan to bring fiscal reforms to the bloc to help the region recover from future shocks. This comes as France has the opportunity to take over the EU’s rotating presidency of the 27-member bloc. Thus with former German chancellor Angela Merkel leaving the office, Macron was set to be the next critical leader of Europe. Macron also played a critical role in the war in Ukraine as he shuttled between Eastern European countries and Russia to be a mediator in the war. 

He also retained France’s role in the Middle East region by involving the country and the EU in reviving the JCPOA talks. This was a part of the E3 of France, Germany, Britain, and the US, trying to save the 2015 Vienna agreement. Furthermore, Macron announced the end of French troop deployment in Mali after nine years. However, that did not undermine France’s role in Africa’s Sahel region, as Niger had agreed to host some withdrawing troops and forces. Thus, Macron’s rise in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was crucial in attracting the vote shares in mainland France. Africa was crucial in attracting mainland France's vote shares and its overseas territories. His initiatives also launched him from a regional leader to a global leader, paving the way for him to win his second term successfully. 

Click here for our complete analysis on France Presidential Elections 2022

Four challenges ahead for President Macron, by Sourina Bej

Five reasons why Emmanuel Macron won, by Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

The rise of Marine Le Pen, by Rishma Banerjee

What does Macron's victory mean for France and the EU, by Padmashree Anandhan


About the author

Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan is a Project Associate under the Science, Technology and International Relations programme at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. His research examines regional organisations, conflicts and China's role in Europe.

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