It was with a mounting sense of disbelief that I counted the votes this evening in my commune in southern France. I’d expected a repudiation of President Emmanuel Macron, but not on this scale. ‘Catastrophe,’ said the centrist deputy mayor as he scanned the voting tallies.
At the end of the count, Macron’s list managed an embarrassing 14 percent, against Le Pen’s, on 36 percent; a result that was repeated in countless other communes from north to south. Macron has his strongholds too, but Le Pen ended up finishing first across all France with 23.3 percent of the vote to his 22.4 percent.
Did Macron have a ground game, that nobody had ever noticed? Or were the voters taking the chance to blow a loud raspberry? It looks like the later. Macron voters stayed home. The enthusiasm was with the opposition.
This is a result that may not portend a seismic shift in French politics because frankly little is at stake for most voters. Few French people see much in a European parliament election that is unlikely to materially affect their lives. If voting for Le Pen in the presidential election was to take a risk, this was an utterly risk-free way to insult a deeply unpopular president.
Today, after six months of civil disorder, with a president seemingly incapable of communicating with ordinary voters, Macron is humiliated, although his tame media will try to spin it as a victory.
The bottom line though is that he has failed to renew his mandate and that fewer than a quarter of French voters support him.
Macron is now is a world of pain. His clumsy national debate in which he never stopped talking, his ham-fisted response to the gilets jaunes, his failure to address the national economic crisis, his estrangement from Germany, his aggression towards the UK, have left him practically friendless.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.