It was hard to concentrate on anything other than the election yesterday, and even though the result was not surprising, it was a huge relief.
I know that for many the notion of voting for someone who is more at home in the world of finance than at the barricades was a bitter pill. The day before the elections, my friend Dessa and I were lunching at our favourite little place (very much the home of le Vigan alternatives) and much enjoyed the heated conversation by eight friends at the next table on whether they should vote the next day and why. Eventually the entire little restaurant was involved when one of them stood up and asked: “Who is going to be voting tomorrow?”
Margaret and I could not vote of course, but we could not resist turning up at the old school in Serres for the (very) local count. It was a bit like taking part in a game of lotto: our neighbours and friends sat round a huge table with pencil and paper, which they marked appropriately each time the deputy mayor, Yves, announced ‘Macron’ ‘Le Pen’ or Blanc. And every time a score reached another ten, they all called out.
Not an arduous job, as there were only 74 votes cast in Serres. But the result turned out to reflect in microcosm what we learnt later was happening over most of France: 42 votes for Macron, 22 for Le Pen and there were 10 ‘blancs’. With each successive election the Front National vote has been creeping up and this was the highest yet. Initially our socialist friends were ticking them off: Mme Léo, the nice old pied noir, the couple from Marseilles, Denis who comes from Nimes ….. But now they know the numbers include some of them.
I then went up to Bréau to find out what the figures were in the main polling station. They were similar: 111 for Macron, 50 for Le Pen and 20 blancs. Amazing to think that there are over 70 people in our tiny commune who vote Front National. A friend who lives in a nearby commune which is more remote and rural – with not a foreigner in sight – but with 35% of the population voting for Le Pen, commented that now he reckons every third person he shakes hands with is an FN supporter.
The proportions were very similar across France, with some notable exceptions like the extreme north of France as well as little pockets along the Mediterranean which voted for Le Pen. The Le Pen vote was high – 45% – in our département, the Gard, because the east end, on the borders of the Rhône is another FN hotspot.
So now we can turn to the question of how Macron will form his government and what will happen in next month’s elections for the legislature, the Assemblée, and whether he is going to be able to change things – or whether he will stall.
Being France, peope do not talk so much about the details of what he proposes for the economy, security etc. Rather they discuss in general ‘la malaise de la France’. Like a sick patient for whom the cure is not quite clear.