Presidential election: a political earthquake bringing down France's Fifth Republic


The elimination of the candidates for the two main parties of government, centrist Emmanuel Macron coming top and the spectacular breakthrough by radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his Unbowed France movement constitute a political upheaval without precedent since 1958. After Sunday's first-round French presidential election vote, each political camp is now talking about a complete realignment of the political battlefield, and everything needs to be rebuilt. This is excellent news, argues Mediapart's editor François Bonnet.

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

Let us cast our minds back nine months to get a better sense of what happened yesterday, April 23rd. Back then the script seemed to have already been written, featuring the following cast: President François Hollande, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the far right's Marine Le Pen and radical left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “2012 – the rematch” was the title of this film that all, or just about all, of them wanted. Hollande had let it been known for months that his preferred candidate in the 2017 presidential election would be Nicolas Sarkozy whom he had beaten in 2012. Sarkozy, meanwhile wanted to crush, to use his elegant phrase, that “complete dead loss” in the Elysée. The Le Pen family business could hardly do other than put up one of its representatives. And as for Mélenchon, who had already set off as a lone candidate some time before, he was able to exploit the weaknesses and divisions of the radical left.Nothing went as planned. And April 23rd will go down as the day a political system set up fifty-five years in 1962 ago under Charles de Gaulle with the dire decision to build French democracy around the presidential election, finally exploded. The disintegration of this system, decided upon by voters in an election that saw a good turnout (around 80%) on Sunday is excellent news. It was also a logical choice in line with the wishes the electorate had already expressed, in particular in the presidential primaries held by the Right and the Left in which first Sarkozy then former socialist prime minister Manuel Valls – who stood when Hollande chose not to - were unceremoniously rejected.