MAY 8 — Relieved and overjoyed. That’s how many are feeling right now in France, safe in the knowledge that the Republic is in the right hands, those very progressive, capable and all-encompassing hands
In these bleak times, something rather special has happened here tonight. Watching the youthful Emmanuel Macron address the nation in front of the scarlet-lit pyramid of the Louvre, there was a palpable sense of triumph over darkness, optimism over pessimism and hope over fear.
There’s been plenty to worry about over the past fortnight following the first round of voting. Scaremongering headlines in the press, the abstentions from voting or blank votes from the indifferent in today’s runoff, and Marine Le Pen’s attempt to un-demonise herself by running independent of her National Front party, an outfit oozing with racism and extremism.
Despite this, Macron still pulled through. He did so convincingly too, gaining more of the vote than the pollsters anticipated. Current estimates (votes are still being counted) show that he won 65.9 per cent compared to Le Pen’s 34.1 per cent.
He heartily thanked his supporters for voting for him. He also thanked those tactical voters, whom he said “simply voted to defend the Republic against extremism.”
Most importantly, he addressed those who voted for Marine Le Pen. He first asked for the booing in the audience — that had started immediately upon hearing her name — to stop, before telling these voters “who had shown their anger and rejection in their vote today”, that he “respected them.” He then pledged to “give them no reason to have voted for the extreme,” during the next five years of his presidency.
Before a cheering and pleasingly diverse crowd, and against a backdrop of the audacious glass structure that perfectly framed France’s new head, he exclaimed that: “This evening, Europe watches, the world watches us” and that the task facing France tomorrow is “truly immense.”
“I will serve you with humility, with force and in the name of our values: liberty, equality and fraternity. I will serve you loyally, and in the confidence you have given me I will serve you with love ”
His wife, family and friends at once flooded the stage, and having got through the undoubtedly well-rehearsed speech, he allowed himself a moment of reality to creep in.
For a spilt second, on that electric blue-stage, he looked as if he couldn’t quite believe his luck, he couldn’t quite believe he was the new President of France. I am sure he will have plenty of these reality checks of the more sober variety in the weeks to come, for his task ahead is a formidable one.
While his path morphs into overdrive, ours perhaps returns to some form of normality. No need for plan B for my family, I didn’t really fancy packing our bags and running off to euro-friendly Germany. Which means I had better start brushing up on my less-than-average French, ready for next year’s exam needed to secure our French passports.
It’s (another) bank holiday here tomorrow, and we are heading for a tour of the bubbly Champagne region. There will be plenty of tasting, and no doubt, a spot of toasting too.
“Vive la République! Vive la France!”
* This is the porsonal opinion of the columnist.