There is something rotten in the kingdom of France. Something that, fortunately, has not yet taken over all the others, but which is gaining more and more ground with each vote. A clear victory for Emmanuel Macron, the first president of the Vand Republic since the time of General de Gaulle to be re-elected without cohabitation is no small feat. The Republican dam, though cracked, is holding on. But how long? Yesterday, more than 40% of the French, more than 13 million voters, voted for the far right, even if many of them do not identify them as such: this is simply a historic event, especially since this figure has been steadily rising for twenty years. years.

By winning the second round of the presidential election with 59% of the vote, Emmanuel Macron once again entered the annals both for his political talent and for exceptional circumstances. Throughout his mandate, he has managed to stabilize an electoral base of over 20% that has never wavered despite three major crises (yellow vests, Covid, the war in Ukraine). In parallel, he took care to occupy all the space that runs from the center left to the center right, which allows, traditionally, to collect the majority of the French. This is a master move. But the other side of the coin is that the outgoing president excited, “in the same time”, sharp rejection by a significant part of the French. It turns out a rather paradoxical situation when a man under 45 manages to be re-elected in a country that loves like no other “cut off the king’s head” but whose throne fluctuates from the first moment.

Without a state of grace

For the first time during V.and Republic, the president will not get a single day of grace. His many opponents, as soon as his victory was announced, challenged not the legitimacy of the vote, but the legitimacy of the president. It is, of course, possible to criticize here what springs from a clear immaturity and contributes to the deterioration of democratic life. But the fact remains that this reflects the mood of a section of the French, of which almost a third abstained, creating an almost unprecedented situation: the king is still there, but he is almost naked.

Emmanuel Macron understood this and promised to reinvent himself from the evening of the first round. Perhaps he can do it – not Rimbaud, who wants it – and that will limit the damage. Perhaps in the same vein, these elections could spark a debate about whether the institutions of the V should be reformed.and Republic, whose central character is elected for the second time in a row by default. Can democracy function under these conditions? Is it logical that a candidate who has received the support of hardly a quarter of the electorate has all the powers?

However, the anxiety, grief and even hatred that has gripped French society seems to stem from a deeper dynamic that goes beyond the question of the institutions or the identity of the tenant of the Elysee Palace, whoever he may be. French democracy – and not the only one – is sick. The history of France has been marked by periods of violence, doubts, deep divisions, the weakening of the republic and the rise of extremist currents and ideas. Historians will be tasked with explaining whether the present moment is exceptional or, conversely, part of a form of continuity, and in what way. However, even now it can be estimated that the upcoming five-year plan will far from be a long, calm river.

How to manage?

How to actually govern a country where now more than one in two votes for radicalism, right or left? How to put together all these Frances, the France of the peripheries, the France of the suburbs, the France of globalized cities, the France of forgotten territories divided within themselves that no longer speak the same language and that almost give the feeling of evolving in parallel universes ? Thus, the outgoing president was criticized by some for being too casual, others for embodying an authoritarian bias, for being both a supporter of cancel culture and a conservative vision that hides under a touch of modernity. Should Emmanuel Macron tip the scales right or left, or attempt an impossible synthesis that is likely to anger both camps?

Legislative elections should provide part of the answer, but they will not stop the fragmentation of French society, whatever the outcome. They may lead to a less concentrated power, which will lead to other problems, but not to a less fragile society.

France, like other Western powers, is going through a phase of deep doubt. Everything suggests that this process will accelerate in the next few years, in particular due to transnational issues that are forcing it to transform, starting with the energy and digital transitions. In France, there is a combination of a form of idealizing the past and worrying about the future, which come from different sources and take on multiple, sometimes conflicting forms.

Emmanuel Macron can’t do everything. He wins if he finds out first. “Every generation, no doubt, believes that it is destined to remake the world. However, mine knows that she won’t do it again. But his task is perhaps greater. It is to keep the world from falling apart.” declared Albert Camus in 1957 when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is, of course, Emmanuel Macron’s main challenge for the next five years: not to remake France as he would like, but rather to prevent, as far as possible, its collapse. Which, in the current circumstances, is perhaps no less difficult.