Paris breathes a sigh of relief as Macron takes center stage
A fiery dance party broke out in the French capital on Sunday night as Parisian voters celebrated the victory of their new president, Emmanuel Macron.
Thousands gathered in front of the Louvre, waving the tri-colored flag as they embraced one another under a blazing soundtrack of pop music among scantily clad dancers and neon laser lights.
The set was perhaps unconventional for a presidential victory party — but then again, this was no ordinary election — nor an ordinary electorate.
Throughout the campaign, Macron’s unique political offering spoke to neither the traditional left nor the right, helping shake up an already confused electorate looking for political solutions outside of the norm.
On Sunday night, with 66.06% of the vote secured, Macron overthrew any chance of his opponent, the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, entering a higher political sphere — and Parisians rejoiced.
It seemed as if the city was released from the plague of a decision unlike any other, collectively embracing a joie de vivre once again, manifested in the form of a new president whose landslide victory was celebrated until the early hours of Monday morning.
In front of two gigantic LED screens with Macron’s party logo “En Marche!,” a stoic man waving a French flag stood out from a crowd of undulating bodies.
“This is a new story and a new beginning for France,” Loic Victor said.
Victor, a 30-year-old international development officer originally from Martinique, a Caribbean island that’s an overseas region of France, told CNN he supported Macron from the beginning because he defined a new political class, one that is “not right, not left.”
Macron, France’s youngest incoming president, was once a political wild card. The 39-year-old centrist independent — a former investment banker turned government minister who entered the presidential race without the backing of any established party — garnered a solid footing through his pro-EU stance and promises to reform France’s welfare and pension systems.
But there is no doubt that his win was also largely thanks to the traditional left, a group that had no candidate in the second round of voting. Many on the left voted for Macron out of fear of the other option: a country led by Le Pen and her xenophobic, anti-EU extremist National Front party.
At the victory rally, Anas Ammounah, a 29-year-old Syrian refugee, said he was especially on-edge in the weeks leading up to the election.
Along with his wife and daughter, who were reunited in France six months ago, Ammounah waved the French flag as high as his smile was wide. He spoke of the generosity and kindness he received in the 18 months since he arrived in the country as a documented refugee — and of the fear that it might be stripped away under a Le Pen government.
“We’re here to celebrate a victory against Le Pen,” he told CNN. “We found that Le Pen would stop immigration and we were scared.”
“We hope Macron will stop (Syrian President) Bashar, so we can return to our home,” he added.
Returning to their home in war-ravaged Aleppo remains a distant dream for Ammounah’s family, so they basked in the bright lights of Macron’s win in their new home in Paris. The win to them was a victory for France but also felt uniquely theirs.
As victory celebrations raged on into the late hours of Sunday night, a group of left-wing protesters clashed with police in a Northern Paris suburb.
When asked about the protests, Macron supporter Pascal Bardin, 60, chalked it up as a typical reaction of young, left-wing political activists. He told CNN that the demonstrations didn’t speak specifically to the fact that Macron won but reflected the French national pastime of protest.
“Whenever anyone is in power, they say ‘degage’ (French for ‘Get Lost’),” Bardin explained. “Whenever anyone can’t fix my life, ‘degage.'”
Macron will face a daunting task in uniting a nearly obliterated traditional left (along with Macron’s allies from the right) who voted for him simply in rejection of Le Pen.
At his victory rally, Macron spoke to this fissure.
“I know the country is divided and this has led to people voting for extremes,” Macron said during a speech at his team’s headquarters Sunday night. “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubt which many of you have expressed and it is my responsibility to hear that.”
Earlier in the evening, as the final polls rolled in, a crowd of residents of Paris’ 15th district lined the streets around Macron’s heavily-policed campaign headquarters.
Sabine Gruhier was one of them.
The 47-year-old Parisian tech-savvy start-up officer donned a red hat in commemoration of the lives lost in the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks as she waited to hear the results.
Gruhier told CNN that although Macron’s win was “surely the best option” for her country, it was a shame that her fellow citizens were pushed to such a polarizing extreme that presented them to choose an option that didn’t represent any of their political identities.
As Macron declared victory, Gruhier let out a sigh of relief, but vowed to remain politically vigilant throughout his candidacy. She called on Macron to investigate the spread of fake news online — something she believes helped to fuel a grassroots spread of “ignorance” that led to Le Pen’s rise in popularity.
“With this election I think people realized democracy is something fragile, and we have to keep fighting to protect it. Even if Macron won, we must still fight — because the situation that Le Pen put us in was frightening.”
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