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15th May 2022

What do French UoM students think of the Presidential elections?

We spoke to UoM’s French students to see how they feel about the recent presidential elections and the future of France
What do French UoM students think of the Presidential elections?

On April 24, Emmanuel Macron won another five-year mandate in the second round of the French presidential elections, with 58.5 per cent of the vote to Marine Le Pen’s 41.5 per cent. It was the lowest turnout for a presidential run-off since 1969. With protestors already taking to the streets in May Day rallies, what did UoM’s French students think of the elections?

Leo, 20, a Business student from near Lille in Northern France

Affordability

I hated both of them [Macron and Le Pen].

The main concern of the French people before the election was affordability. In France there is a lot of concern that if you receive the minimum wage you cannot have a decent life.

For me, this was the main concern that should have been put on the table for the elections but in the end it wasn’t talked about as much because there was the war in Ukraine and Covid.

I wanted to vote for someone that’s going to help people to get a more affordable life and get jobs, because a lot of people don’t get jobs or they don’t get the job they want.

Macron never did anything for the people who didn’t live properly by working. And Le Pen is starting to gather all these people who are concerned that they are not living properly with a small wage.

When you’re working you should have a decent life. I think this is why [support for] Le Pen is still super high. The meaning of the vote for her is less about immigration and her policies on security. I think she gets more votes now for her ideas on helping poor people.

Rural France

When the city has more than 10,000 people, it’s Macron.

And that shows a lot. It shows that Macron maybe didn’t do anything for people who live in the countryside who don’t have a decent hospital, who have to drive half an hour to get to school, who have been left behind. I don’t think these people are racist.

These people mind their own business but I feel like they are not being respected by Macron.

Personality politics

In France because you are voting for a person, there’s not much talk about politics, not much debate about what the ideas are. The debate is more about the person, what they are, what they represent. It makes it more…. like reality TV.

They will put more attention on Macron’s personal life. Let’s talk about the issues.

More and more I feel like we’re getting away from the ideas and opinions and focusing on the person.

Most of my friends, they don’t tend to think that much about who they’re going to vote for… Macron is the ideal candidate for that because he’s very shiny and he speaks very well.

Emmanuel Macron

On the international stage, he’s the maestro. Or he feels he’s the maestro.

I think his destiny is to be the President of the EU. He’s really ambitious. If there were a President of the World, he would be running for it already.

There was a time when people were calling him ‘Jupiter’ after the planet.

After getting elected twice, they’re going to call him the Sun, the planets are going to turn around him now.

What do you think will happen in five years?

I think it’s the last time we’ll get someone who is centre or centre-right.

Unless Macron does a miracle and lands on Planet Earth, lands in France and starts to listen to people, the concerns of people.

Macron killed all the centre-left and centre-right parties because he hired a lot of people from their parties to get into government and after that the party system weakened. There are less ideas that would please people…either you really like it or you really don’t.

He’s trying to kill the debate, to choke the debate until it can’t breathe anymore.

 

Emilie, 19, a Politics student from near Lille in Northern France

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

I think he is really legitimate. He has this very long and solid career in politics. He has very good ideas that have shifted with the times. The only bad thing about him is he’s so unpredictable, but he listens to young people and his party is so diverse.

He lost out on the second round by just over one point. We could’ve had a very interesting second round, talking about the economy and social rights and the social system and how it’s decaying because of Macron, but Le Pen passed and they just talked about immigration.

The party system

The party system is really flawed and I think maybe it’s dying.

The old parties have been here since post-war and they have been really efficient at pushing very good social policies but I think now they’re done, especially when you look at the Socialists. We had François Hollande, who was our former President in 2012. He wasn’t really popular. He wasn’t charismatic, so maybe he put the final pin in the coffin of socialism in France. It’s all about communication at the end of the day and Macron is very good at that. He’s very seductive.

The electoral system

It reinforces monarchy culture.

They have this term in French politics: ‘le monarque républicain’, the republican monarch. I think having a president and voting for him and it being just a popularity contest recreates this thing where we have to find someone who is elected by Nature or God to be strong enough to lead a whole country.

It’s more about personality than actual strong policies sometimes and that’s a pity.

Do you feel listened to by French Politicians?

No. I’m young, I’m a woman, I’m black, I don’t feel represented. Maybe by Christianne Taubira. She’s the former Minister of Justice. She’s a black woman. She’s really educated and really inspirational. She suffered a lot of racist attacks when she was minister, racial caricatures and people insulting her, but she’s so strong and she always knew how to respond to that. I think she could make a difference. She’s really popular in some spaces, in some bubbles. I think she’s not speaking enough to the wider public. I feel listened to by her. I relate to her somehow.

What do you want to happen next in French politics?

I want to see someone who is strong enough to reunite the whole left. Mélenchon was near that almost but maybe he was too controversial to actually reunite everyone. I just want people to put their ego aside and put their values first to actually get into office and make meaningful policies. I think that’s not going to happen because Mélenchon said it was his last attempt to be President so after that the left is pretty much by itself. No one in the left right now is charismatic enough to have the impact of Mélenchon.

What do you think will happen in five years time?

I’m really afraid, I hope it’s not going to happen, but I think Le Pen is going to make it. They’ve been trying since 2002, and since 2002 they’ve always been in the second round, and always their numbers grow, all the time. This time was almost 50-50. Macron is not going to be able to have a third turn because it’s not legal. Le Pen is still going to grow because populism just works. And the left is nowhere to be found.

 

Ben, 19, a French and Politics student from Lorraine in Eastern France

Emmanuel Macron

He’s a bit difficult to analyse. He’s broken every code. He’s come out of absolutely nowhere. He was a fairly important but fairly irrelevant minister.

People knew him by face. All of a sudden though, he comes and says to the French people, I am the new candidate for people who are above left and right and have this certain idea of France: a France of entrepreneurship. The French people absolutely love the idea. And when it came to voting for him or Le Pen, a considerable number the people voted for him because he was a completely new candidate.

What I think made the 2022 presidential campaign boring and predictable was you had the choice between no one new, with the same old crap [candidates] who had no idea what they were doing, and a guy who’s super arrogant.

But, look, France has not burnt down. The country is running somewhat fine. He’s making us somewhat credible. Who did you think the French people would choose?

Although he is very arrogant, he’s not lying about how the country works, he’s not lying to the French people.

I’ve always kind of supported Macron from the very beginning of his campaign, I used to be part of his youth program.

He’s been very good up until Covid. With Covid, he’s started to become a bit more authoritarian and famously said things to the French people which created controversies like ‘Emmerder les non-vaccinés,’ which means “Screw the people who aren’t vaccinated”. But despite all of this, he’s shown time and time again that he’s the only one who’s actually capable of holding office.

He’s shown that he is a good leader in time of war. Bombs aren’t falling on Paris but he knows how to deal with not having peace in Europe.

Does La République En Marche! have a future after Macron?

I don’t know. The same question can be asked about Le Pen’s party because it’s a party based around Le Pen. It might be called Reassemblement National, but the reality is it’s the Le Pen party.

This is the way the parties are supposed to be made, because effectively how the first iteration of the Fifth Republic came to be was around an actually positive cult of personality around Charles De Gaulle. One strong leader for one strong country. So everyone who wants to become president has to be the strong leader of the party.

Yellow Vest protests

They created a lot of havoc in Paris.

I understand the argument and the reason behind the Yellow Vest protests. It’s not okay that all of a sudden there’s so much tax made on petrol without really having an idea of transition to make it cheaper for the average consumer to buy a hybrid or an electric car.

But the way the protests were done wasn’t acceptable either. Thrashing Paris and actually putting Parisians in danger isn’t going to work. You’re going to make your movement lack credibility. People will not take it seriously, which is the case now.

I understand that French people have a revolutionary side, this is how the Republic was born, but come on. The cause is good, [but] the way they applied it made them ridiculous.

What would you like to see happen in French politics?

A continuation to be honest. I liked the way it was.

I was super satisfied with Macron’s mandate. He should continue the same policies. He should be more of a defender of climate change, maybe integrate even more with the EU.

Continue to build the relationship with the Germans, because that has been going really well. Just continue to be a state that collaborates with the world and is fairly neutral. Neither really for the Russians or against the Russians, but communicating with both Russians and Ukrainians. Not really for North Korea, not really against North Korea but communicating with North Korea and the United States. Being really a country that is there to be the European balance. Again, we’re not really against the British, not really for the British but we’ve played an important role in being the middle man between Britain and the EU.


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