The results of France’s presidential elections hit the headlines all around the world on Sunday, but the elections aren’t quite over yet! Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.
1. Macron Beats Le Pen in French Elections
The final round of France’s much-debated elections took place on Sunday, April 24th, with the preliminary results announced at 8pm that evening. By early Monday morning, the final results were in, with the incumbent president beating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen with 58.55% to her 41.45%. President Emmanuel Macron now becomes the first French president to successfully seek a second term in 20 years (and the only president with a parliamentary majority to be reelected since Charles de Gaulle).
However, it’s a muted victory for Macron, with the election seeing the highest level of abstention in 50 years (more than 28%), and many voters insisting that they had only voted for him in opposition to the far-right Le Pen rather than through confidence in his policies. This division was addressed by Macron in his victory speech, which took place at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris: “I know a lot of our compatriots voted for me because they supported my ideas but also to block the path to power of the far-right,” he admitted, saying “I want to thank them and tell them I’m aware of the responsibility their vote puts on me in the years to come.”
He continued: “An answer must be found to the anger and disagreements that led many of our compatriots to vote for the extreme right. It will be my responsibility and that of those around me”.
Despite France’s internal struggles, it’s safe to say that Macron’s re-election was welcome news to other European governments who had worried about the election of the anti-EU Le Pen. There was also a collective sigh of relief for the many expats who call France home and who would have undoubtedly been negatively affected were Le Pen’s Nationalist policies ever to come into effect.
2. France’s Elections: What Happens Next?
If you thought that was it for the French elections, think again! Now that the Presidential elections have ended, the next dates in the political diary for France are in June, when the French parliamentary elections take place. Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to resign in the coming days (as is customary in France after an election), allowing Macron to reshuffle his government and prepare for the parliamentary campaigns.
The parliamentary elections will take place over two rounds – on June 12th and 19th – with just one week between each round, and voters will elect 577 ‘députés’ (the French equivalent of an MP in the UK) from each constituency to make up the lower house of the French parliament or ‘Assemblée Nationale.
Macron’s party will be seeking to win a majority as they managed last time, without which it will be difficult for him to pass any new legislation over the next five years. However, with both Le Pen and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon campaigning hard to block Macron’s chance at gaining a majority, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to achieve this feat a second time.
3. France Sends Military Equipment to Ukraine
Prior to the elections last Friday, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will be delivering significant military equipment, including anti-tank missiles and Caesar artillery cannons, to aid Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. This comes after repeated requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for Europe and NATO countries to supply heavier weapons and artillery.
Although it is not sure how many of these missiles and howitzers will be provided (this information has been withheld for security reasons), Macron has been clear that France will continue on its mission to help Ukraine “always with the red line that we will not become parties to the conflict.”
4. May Day in France
May 1 in France is the ‘Fête du Travail’ or workers’ holiday, but while it is typically a jours férié (bank holiday), May Day this year falls on a Sunday, meaning workers won’t benefit from a day off. However, if you’re in France this Sunday, keep an eye out for May Day marches—this day is traditionally a day of protest and demonstrations, especially for the country’s trade unions.
Other May Day traditions include giving out Muguet (lily of the valley) flowers to friends and family for luck.
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