Relief, elation and an Ode to Joy swept across the French capital’s temple of culture on Sunday as thousands gathered to celebrate Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen.
Fittingly, the centrist, independent candidate for the French presidency had picked the most central of venues: his victory bash was bang in the middle of Paris, on the majestic esplanade of the world’s most famous museum.
Other grounds had reportedly been dismissed as too right-wing – think Place de la Concorde – or too left-wing – the Bastille or Place de la République – for the man who promised to usher in a new era for French politics on a “neither left nor right” platform.
When the results were announced on large plasma screens at 8pm, a huge cheer echoed around the Louvre’s historic courtyard as the large and diverse crowd roared with delight and frantically waved the blue, white and red flags of France.
There was Ben, a Briton who had come to the Louvre “to finally see a liberal win, somewhere in the world”. There were Basile and Patience, two Congolese refugees “relieved that Le Pen won’t send [them] back”. And there were French men and women of all ages chanting “Macron président!”
Most were enthusiastic supporters of the 39-year-old political novice, who has climbed his way from virtual anonymity to France’s highest office through a combination of chutzpah, tactical flair and extraordinary luck.
“I feel like this is one of those historic moments you only experience once in a lifetime,” said 22-year-old student Grégoire Collet, who travelled from the far-off Basque Country to savour the moment in Paris. “This is the first bit of really good news we have had in Europe in a long time.”
Others, like Amira Belachebab, a 25-year-old hairdresser, had voted for Macron “only by necessity, to defend the French Republic” from his far-right opponent.
In a sober speech, Macron had a word for the millions who backed him reluctantly, in order to keep out Le Pen. "I know that this is not a blank cheque," he said. "I know about our disagreements. I will respect them."
Mindful of the criticism that greeted his premature victory speech a fortnight ago, he strove to cut a solemn figure as he walked into the courtyard of the Louvre to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the anthem of the European Union.
But the august surroundings of the former royal palace and the backdrop of the glass pyramid built under François Mitterrand, France’s last “presidential monarch”, were also reminders that Macron plans to restore France’s tradition of strong leadership after five years of François Hollande’s “Normal” presidency.
Hailing a “victory for hope”, world-famous mathematician Cédric Villani said French voters had chosen “a project that is open to the world and believes in progress” over one that “is going backward and looking inward".
But, he cautioned, “This should not conceal the fact that France is in a state of deep questioning and confusion about its current situation, its place in the world.” He added: “Today, [French voters] said: ‘OK, Mr Macron, let’s see what you can do to reconcile us and get us out of the difficulties that we are undergoing’.”
Date created : 2017-05-08