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Five takeaways from France’s presidential election second round

We look at abstention rates, vote transfers, calls for a union of right-wing ‘patriots’ and Le Pen’s relative success

Emmanuel Macron won a second successive term as president but his opponent, Marine Le Pen, made gains on 2017 Pic: GERARD BOTTINO / Shutterstock

Emmanuel Macron was re-elected president of France in yesterday’s election second round, winning 58.54% of the votes against 41.46% for Marine Le Pen - but his victory is not the only talking point of the day. 

We take a look at five other points from the vote.

Read more on the results here: French election results and reactions as Macron wins second term

Abstention rate highest since 1969

It was predicted that the turnout for this year’s election might be low, with reports of many voters disillusioned by the programmes of both Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron.

The far-right Ms Le Pen is deeply unpopular among left-wing, centrists and the more traditional right-wing voters, while Mr Macron is seen as elitist and arrogant and has few backers among France’s rural population. 

The overall abstention rate ended up at 28.01% this year, the highest since 1969 when Georges Pompidou faced off against Alain Poher.

Abstention rates in second round of presidential election since 1965:

  • 1965 - 15.67%

  • 1969 - 31.15%

  • 1974 - 12.67%

  • 1981 - 14.15%

  • 1988 - 15.94%

  • 1995 - 20.34%

  • 2002 - 20.29%

  • 2007 - 16.03%

  • 2012 - 19.65%

  • 2017 - 25.44%

  • 2022 - 28.01%

Supporters of the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third in the first round, had particular trouble choosing between the two candidates. 

Of those who voted for him in the first round, 24% did not vote at all in the second round, while another 17% spoiled their votes. 

There were 3,018,990 spoiled votes in total. 

Read more: 'Macron or Le Pen: It's like choosing between the plague or cholera'

Marine Le Pen, down but not out

Ms Le Pen lost but her score of 41.46% (13,297,760 votes) is a huge achievement for a far-right candidate in France. 

Yesterday evening, after conceding defeat, she promised to battle on.

“This result demonstrates the great defiance of the French people," she said. 

“I do not feel any resentment or rancour. 

“To avoid this monopolisation of power by a few, more than ever I will continue my commitment to France and the French.”

Her score is 7.55 percentage points higher than what she got in 2017 (33.9%). It is significantly higher than when her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was the first far-right candidate in the second round of a presidential election, got 17.79% in 2002. 

"The ideas we represent are reaching new heights,” she said.

“Tonight's result is, in itself, a resounding victory.

“I fear this evening that the coming five-year term will not break with the brutal and contemptuous practices of the previous one.

“The risk of Macron mechanically seizing all legislative and executive powers is high. This is a prospect that no patriot can accept."

Mr Macron himself acknowledged the supporters of Ms Le Pen in his victory speech in Paris yesterday night. 

“I am also thinking of our compatriots who voted for Ms Le Pen,” he said. 

“I am no longer the candidate of one camp, but the president of all. I know that for many of our compatriots who chose the extreme right, the anger and disagreements that led them to vote for this project must also be answered. 

“This will be my responsibility and that of those around me.”

Read more: President Macron’s re-election win: ‘Now we have so much to do’

Le Pen popular in overseas territories

Underscoring just how popular the far-right politician has become, she won in many of France’s overseas territories that five years ago voted overwhelmingly for Mr Macron. 

Ms Le Pen won in Guadeloupe (69.6%), Martinique (60.87%), Saint-Barthélemy (54.73%), French Guiana (60.7%) and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (50.69%). 

Five years ago, in the 2017 presidential election second round, Mr Macron won convincingly in Martinique (77.5%), Guadeloupe (75.1%) and French Guiana (64.9%). 

Ms Le Pen said of the overseas territories, “This France, too often forgotten, we do not forget it”. 

Mr Macron won this year in over territories such as New Caledonia (61.04%), French Polynesia (51.8%) and Wallis and Futuna (67.44%). 

He was also far more popular with French citizens living outside of France, with 86.14% of them backing him. 

Eric Zemmour calls for coalition of the right

The far-right Eric Zemmour, who finished fourth in the first round and called on his supporters to back Ms Le Pen, said he was “sad and disappointed” with the result. 

“Tonight, people who love France have lost and Emmanuel Macron has been re-elected easily.

“It is the eighth time that defeat has hit the name of Le Pen. I did what I could to avoid this result but I did not succeed.”

Statistics show that 73% of his supporters voted for Ms Le Pen in the second round, while 10% backed Mr Macron, and 17% abstained or spoiled their votes. 

He said that right-wing nationalists must unite to compete in the legislative elections for MPs in June. 

“We must unite and come together, our responsibility is immense,” he said. 

“I call for national unity in view of the legislative elections. Let's build the first coalition of the right-wing and patriots as soon as possible."

How did the other candidates’ supporters vote?

Supporters of the French Greens candidate Yannick Jadot turned out in favour of Mr Macron, with 65% of them voting for the re-elected president. 

Just over half (53%) of those who voted for the right-wing Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains) turned out for Mr Macron. 

See the table below, linked in the Tweet, for more details. 

Related articles

French election live first results: Macron 58.2%, Le Pen 41.8%

Recap: What Emmanuel Macron pledged to change if re-elected president

France’s presidential election: What happens after Sunday’s vote?

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