French word of the week: Soulagement (26/4/2022)

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Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but for the majority voting French, the word of the week has to be “soulagement“. In other words, “a big relief”.

Yes, election polls had indicated President Macron was leading against right-wing Le Pen, but we’ve all seen a few surprises pop up in the U.S., U.K., and across Europe.

And since we have another 5 years of the guy, just so everyone is clear on the spelling:

Thankfully now, we can continue to ignore Madame Le Pen for another 5 years, till she pops up again grinning enthusiastically. (Or at least until the parliamentary elections in June.)

One particularity about French elections is that there is a legally-imposed news blackout about the results, to avoid influencing voters. This means that there are no exit-polls or guess-estimates as to how the vote is unfolding until 8pm on the big Election night.

The nail-biting big bang lasts all day long, with everyone trying to guess whether the journalists on French TV (who have been watching the results all day) are smiling or looking worried, or trying to give signals in code. The law only applies in France, so the locals often doomscroll through foreign media in Belgium, Switzerland and the UK, to see what is being said.

In case, you are wondering for next time, the favorite hastags on Twitter are #radiolondres and #rtbl. (Whether twitter will be around in 5 yrs time, is another story.)

The big reveal happens at 8pm, when they are legally allowed to announce their projected winner. Here is TV channel M6’s impressive countdown to 8pm, scrolling past all the former Presidents of France since 1945:

Like the majority who voted, I am rather relieved that Le Pen was defeated, along wit her party founded by former Waffen members. (I’m also relieved I don’t have to update my article on the interior decor at the presidential palace, Palais d’Elysées, under Mme Le Pen).

Now, there are quite a few analyses of the French election out there, especially about whether a 58% voting majority counts as a “razor-thin” victory or not. They all tend to ignore the basic history of French politics: If Americans can count the number of 1-term US presidents on one hand since 1945, the French can count the number of 2-term French presidents on 1 hand.

In other words, the French rarely like any politician enough to bestow them with a 2nd presidential term. Macron is the first sitting French president to have been reelected in 20 years. He is also the only president in 50 years to have been reelected while already holding a parliamentary majority. It is an impressive victory, especially for someone who has never held another position in elected office.

Part of this inherent dislike and pessimism is cultural. The phrase “pas mal” in French translates to “not bad”, but actually means “quite good!”, if not “great!”.

Les Français aiment avoir un roi pour pouvoir lui couper la tête.

Translation: The French like to have a king so they can chop off his head.

However, part of it is also the rise of populism linked to media and social media all over the world. We have our own version of Fox news here, called CNews by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré.

So with that, we wish Macron with luck over the next 5 years. Regardless of anyone’s politics, his success will be France’s success, and the E.U.’s. And we all want that, don’t we?

In other news:

  • Paris Saint-German won the French Ligue 1 football title for the 10th time this past Saturday, with 4 games in hand. In case you thought this would make their fans happy, you would be wrong. (See cultural pessimism above.) Their own fan club called the Ultras, walked out of the stadium 15 minutes before the end to protest “a poor season”.
  • And to round off, the French remain the wine champions of Europe:

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