France Reacts To Macron's Win In Presidential Election

May 7, 2017
Originally published on May 7, 2017 11:54 pm
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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France. He won 65 percent of the vote according to early results defeating far-right candidate. Marine Le Pen who has called to congratulate her rival. It's a dramatic victory for Macron on his first run for office, and it comes after a tumultuous campaign that knocked all of France's establishment candidates out of the picture.

NPR's Frank Langfitt is in Lille, Northern France, gauging Le Pen supporter reaction, and NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Paris at the Macron victory party. We spoke with them earlier this evening, and I began by asking Eleanor to describe the scene at the victory party.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It is a giant party in front of the Louvre museum in the Tuileries Garden - lights and a big stage and really loud music. And it all began at 8 p.m. French time tonight when, as tradition has it, the nightly news pulls up pictures of the two candidates, counts down and then announces the winner. And I was right there, and this is what it sounded like.

(CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: People were euphoric and people are just continuing to pour into the gardens, and I met Sophie Wardlow (ph) who brought her two daughters, and here's what she told me.

SOPHIE WARDLOW: It's fantastic to see all the people gathered around (unintelligible). Everybody's just friendly again, smiling, relieved.

BEARDSLEY: And, you know, the kind of people I'm seeing here tonight are just all the colors of France. You know, you just - every ethnicity. You have a lot of women in headscarves. They're just - everyone's got the French flag. They all say they're overjoyed. They're relieved. I mean, it's just a big euphoric party going on here tonight, and we're waiting for Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, to arrive shortly. He's going to address everyone here.

SINGH: Frank, where are you? And what have you been hearing?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, I'm up in Lille, as you were mentioning, and it's a very different scene up here. Of course, this is Le Pen country. A lot of former coal towns and also a lot of closed factories. I was out here on the square, and I was talking to a woman named Noemie Walase (ph). She's 20 years old. I was with her when she got the news. She was folding her arms. She's a big Le Pen supporter, and she's really worried about terror attacks, and she thinks actually that French voters will come to regret this vote. Here's what she said.

NOEMIE WALASE: (Speaking French).

LANGFITT: "For the next five years, we're going to be in trouble. We're still going to have terrorists and bombs, then they'll understand."

SINGH: Eleanor, Macron just had given his victory speech. What did he say?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, exactly. That is very interesting. He gave an initial speech at his headquarters, a complete contrast to the mood out here at the Tuileries. But he basically said it was very solemn. There was no euphoria, very grave. First of all, he said, I won't forget you to all the, you know, the supporters, and all the people in France.

And he said I know your anger. I know the people are angry. So he has shown that he knows it's a grave situation, that the country is not united, and he let them know that.

SINGH: Frank, this is a big defeat for Marine Le Pen. Is she finished politically?

LANGFITT: It's too early to say, but people don't think so and for the exact reasons that Eleanor just mentioned. The problems in this country are not going away. He has five years to address them. Marine Le Pen, when she conceded defeat today, she said she wants to be the major opposition to Macron. If you talk to political analysts, as I was tonight, what they say is that if he stumbles, Le Pen is going to be there, and she'll run against him in 2022.

SINGH: As we've noted, Macron has never run for office before, and now he's going to be president. So, Eleanor, how does he build a government and party from here?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it's going to be really difficult, but from what I'm hearing, it can be done. He has a brand new party. He has no members of parliament, but he has a lot of people waiting to run in the legislative elections in June. And he's trying to cobble together a majority. And what I've been told is in the past when the French elect a president, they give that president a majority because they want, you know - they want to see what he can do.

So we're going to see in the next month how he gets his party together, how he wins, you know, legislative seats and gets his program going. But he's going to have a lot of opposition. I can guarantee you people are going to be in the streets because he wants to do some big labor reforms that a lot of people aren't going to want to do.

SINGH: What does this mean for right-wing populism, Frank? So many people have been focused on all of this after the Trump victory in the United States and the United Kingdom vote last year to leave the European Union. What do you believe this means for right-wing populism? What are you hearing?

LANGFITT: Well, I think in talking to analysts tonight, obviously a defeat. It looks like it's going to be a very big one, and a rejection for now. But let's go back to 2002 when her father ran for the presidency here in - for the National Front Party. He only got 18 percent. She's done a lot better.

And people who look at her say, again, as we've been talking about, watch where this all heads, that she's not going away. And the issues here - and the right-wing anger, exactly as Eleanor pointed out - that's not going away either.

SINGH: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley and Frank Langfitt reporting on the presidential election in France. Eleanor, Frank, thank you for your time.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Lakshmi.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Lakshmi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.