French presidential vote: international media react

By AFP   April 24, 2017 | 05:53 pm GMT+7
French presidential vote: international media react
Supporters of Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, celebrate after partial results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, at the Parc des Expositions hall in Paris, France April 23, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

The results of France's first round of presidential election made front page headlines around the world on Monday.

Many newspapers noted that a likely win for pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 run-off would be good news for the European Union but warned that his far-right rival Marine Le Pen could still pull off a surprise victory.

'Le Pen threat not over'

Media in neighbouring Britain hailed pro-European Macron's strong showing while adding that Le Pen's second-place success should not be ignored.

"The threat from the French extreme right is not over," the centre-left Guardian said, describing Macron as the "best hope of a deeply-troubled but great country".

The Financial Times predicted May 7 would be an "act of coronation" for him.

But it warned governing would not come so easily, saying Macron could be forced into "hard bargaining" to implement his reform agenda.

An opinion piece on America's rightwing Fox News website said Le Pen was still in with a good chance and referenced US President Donald Trump's shock win, saying: "She may pull off an even bigger surprise than the Tweeter in Chief. Yuge, in fact."

China's state-run Global Times newspaper voiced a similar opinion.

Although observers believe Macron will win the second round, "those same experts obviously run the same risk in making the wrong prediction, similar to what happened with the US presidential election result," it said.

Norway's Aftenposten warned that "another large-scale terrorist attack in the next two weeks" could make the run-off closer than expected, adding: "It is not easy to place a ceiling on the bitterness of a part of the electorate linked to major social differences and the high number of Muslims."

'France torn apart'

Media in several countries pointed to the historic defeat suffered by the traditional left and right, with the Wall Street Journal calling the vote a "stunning rebuke of France's mainstream political forces".

In an article headlined "France torn apart", Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that more than 40 percent had cast their ballots for the far-right or far-left.

"Macron's victory is so narrow that in the two previous presidential elections, he wouldn't have won a place in the second round," it said.

The BBC said France was "entering unchartered political water" and noted that whoever came out top in the next round, the country was "deeply divided".

Switzerland's Le Temps said the result signalled that the French republic was "broken" and that voters wanted "deep changes".

The second round, it said, is "set to oppose two visions of France -- one inclusive and open to the world and its concerns, and the other cut off behind its borders and its old myths".

Insider or outsider?

The New York Times noted Macron's strange status as both someone who has set himself apart from establishment parties and someone who hails from the political elite.

"His profile is that of an insider, but his policies are those of an outsider," the Times said.

"If the ever-precocious Mr. Macron is to succeed, his first challenge is to sell a product still largely unfamiliar to almost everyone: himself."

Good for the EU?

Poland's centre-left Gazeta Wyborcza expressed relief that the prospect of a French exit from the EU -- which could spell disaster for the bloc -- appeared slightly further off as polls showed Macron likely to beat Le Pen in the run-off.

"The European Union needs to survive the divorce with Britain that has just begun. But Frexit -- a French departure from the union -- would have buried the European project. And that's what National Front leader Marine Le Pen has announced."

Poland's centrist Rzeczpospolita broadsheet daily said "Everything suggests that Emmanuel Macron will be president. This will save the EU."

"Europe has won", declared a headline in an opinion piece in Spain's top-selling daily El Pais. Macron was "the only truly European candidate among the four" main candidates in the first round.

'Extraordinary'

In an editorial headlined "The hope of Macron", El Pais said the young centrist's success "points the way that traditional parties must follow if they want to reconnect with their voters".

"The man who is shaping up to become the youngest president of the French Republic has broken through in a France engulfed in crisis and pessimism," it said.

"His optimistic outlook on the future of the country and of Europe seduced voters at a time of rising populism, nationalism and xenophobia."

A comment piece in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, meanwhile, called the election results "a political earthquake".

 
 
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