PARIS—As is the case most Sundays,
 Rue de Bac in central Paris was quiet 
this morning.
The shops were closed, as were most 
cafes on this day when self-styled centrist
 Emmanuel Macron would defeat the 
far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, to
 become France’s next president.
Except for Le Saint Germain cafe, 
at the corner of Rue du Bac and 
Boulevard Saint-Germain. On
 the outdoor terrace, patrons 
sipped on coffee and munched
 leisurely on croissants, as is 
the custom on any morning.
Most were reading a newspaper. 
Two American tourists thumbed
 through a Lonely Planet 
guidebook; true to form, 
their voices a decibel level
 or two above the rest.

Inside, 58-year-old Marco was
 working behind the bar. 
Gray-haired with the sleeves 
of his white button-down shirt 
rolled up and a black apron tied 
around his soft waist, Marco 
served coffee and croissants 
to customers standing at the bar.
“Have you voted yet?” Marco 
asked an older man who wore 
a driving cap and was reading a 
copy of Le Figaro, a staple 
conservative French newspaper.
“No,” the man replied between
 sips of coffee. “And I don’t plan
“I’m not going to vote because 
both candidates are no good,” 
Marco told The Daily Signal, 
asking that his last name not 
be used due to privacy concerns.
 “Neither one talks about the 
country. They only talk about
 their small problems; it’s only
 a quarrel between the two 
of them.”

At the intersection of Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint-Germain in central Paris. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
Outside the cafe, the sky was
 gray, the air cool and fresh, 
and the sidewalks still wet 
from spring showers the evening
A homeless man sat beneath 
two vandalized campaign 
posters for Macron, France’s
 39-year-old former economy
 minister under Socialist President 
François Hollande. Macron
 ended up winning Sunday’s
 presidential election by taking 
65 percent of the vote to defeat
 his rival, Le Pen, 48, of the far
right, eurosceptic, anti-
immigration National Front party.

Vandalized campaign posters for 
defeated French presidential 
candidate, Marine Le Pen.
(Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
“His resounding victory
 confirms that a very large
majority of our fellow citizens
have united around the values 
of the Republic and signaled 
their attachment to the European
 Union as well as the opening
 up of France to the world,” 
incumbent French President 
Francois Hollande said of 
Macron’s victory in a Sunday
 evening statement.
Yet, with his win, Macron faces
 a divided country with a litany 
of economic and security woes
, including terrorism and high 
“Many will be breathing a sigh 
of relief with Macron’s win but 
while he is far more preferable
 than the anti-NATO, anti-America
n, and pro-Putin Le Pen, we 
should not kid ourselves into
 thinking that he represents the 
sort of change France so 
desperately needs,” Luke 
Coffey, director of the Douglas
and Sarah Allison Center for 
Foreign Policy at The Heritage
 Foundation, told The Daily 
“While Le Pen would have
 done great damage to France
 and its standing in the world,
 Macron’s stale economic 
policies mean that France will 
remain on economic life 
support for the foreseeable future,” Coffey said.
Sunday marked the tepid end 
of a historic French presidential 
campaign. For the first time in 
France’s Fifth Republic, the 
Socialists and Les Republicains, 
France’s establishment liberal
 and conservative political
 parties, respectively, were not
 represented in the second, final 
round of the presidential election.
Sunday’s vote highlighted an 
upheaval of France’s political
 order and a stark crossroads for
 France’s future due to the 
diametrically opposing political
 policies and philosophies of 
Macron and Le Pen.
However, for many French 
voters, both Macron and Le Pen
 were a disappointment. Le Pen
 was too extreme, and Macron 
was considered to be under the
 thumb of France’s banking elite.
“My favorite candidate was
 François Fillon,” Carmen Van 
Houten, a 52-year-old pediatric
 nurse at a public hospital told 
The Daily Signal, referring to
 the conservative Les 
Republicains candidate who
 lost in the April 23 first round
 of voting after a scandal-tainted 
“The media decided for the 
French people that the new 
president would be Emmanuel
 Macron,” Van Houten said.
 “For one year now the media 
wanted to have a match between
 Macron and Le Pen. So today 
I’ll go to Fontainebleau Forest
 to run a trail. I’ll not go to 

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
By all accounts, the lack of 
enthusiasm generated by both 
candidates translated into
 historically low levels of voter
 participation. As of 8 p.m. in
 Paris, turnout was estimated to
 be roughly 75 percent—the 
lowest level of voter participation
 in a presidential second-round
 vote since 1969, according to
 French news reports.
Macron’s win was decisive. But
 with such low levels of 
participation, his mandate to
 govern might be weakened
“Macron will do nothing,” 
Marco said from Le Saint 
Germain cafe. “It will just be
another five years of the same
 mistakes and failed policies of
 [French President Francois]
 Hollande. The rich will get
 richer, the poor poorer.”
“Divisions remain, but Emmanuel 
[Macron] will now have to address
 the most important concerns,”
Nicolas Tenzer, founder and 
sed think tank, told The Daily
“He will have to transform his 
victory into a presidential 
dynamic in the parliamentary 
elections,” Tenzer said. “The 
social issues are obviously the main ones, but it’s critical also to have a government with completely new political figures.”
‘Best of a Bad Situation’
Macron represented his own
 upstart political party, En
 Marche!–translating to “Let’s
 go!” or “forward!” in English–
which he formed in April 2016
 as a vessel for his maverick
 presidential campaign. He does 
not have the backing of a major 
political party in France’s
National Assembly, which 
could make it hard for him 
to pass his agenda.

Security measures at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Sunday. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
“We’re not celebrating, we’re not 
popping open the champagne,”
Olivier Dartigolles, spokesman 
for the French Communist Party,
 said in a statement to the press
 on Sunday evening. “Millions 
of people must feel trapped. 
Emmanuel Macron was elected 
by default.”
Macron’s victory was, however, 
a landmark defeat for far-right, 
anti-immigration, anti-EU parties
 across Europe—as well as for t
he Kremlin’s machinations to
 fund and support those parties
 to weaken its perceived Western
“This was the best of a bad 
situation, but at least the only 
person more disappointed 
than Le Pen right now is
 Russian President Vladimir 
Putin,” Coffey said.
“It’s certainly a loss for
 Russia, and thus good news,”
Tenzer said. “But no one can
 be reassured with the National 
Front catching 35 percent of 
the votes.”
The National Front, the party 
of Le Pen, is a controversial 
political force in France. Its 
founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen 
(Marine Le Pen’s estranged 
father), was notorious for his 
Nazi-sympathizing, anti-
Semitic remarks—including 
his calling the Nazi gas 
chambers of the Holocaust 
a “detail” of history.
Yet, many French voters—
35 percent of them—were 
willing to overlook the 
National Front’s checkered past and dubious ties to Moscow to upend France’s political and economic status quo.
“I’m for Le Pen,” Regis Aernouts, an antiques dealer in Paris’ Sixth Arrondissement told The Daily Signal on Saturday. “I’m not racist, but I think she would be best for the country. We live in a bubble here in Paris. It is, I think, like what happened in America when you elected Trump. People living in Washington and New York didn’t know what was happening in the rest of the country. It’s the same here in France.”
Scar Tissue
In Paris on Sunday, tourists passed through airport-style security barriers to approach the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Armed army fire teams, clad in body armor and with assault rifles slung across their chests, patrolled among the crowds. News teams from around the world were set up with the Eiffel Tower in the background as reporters rehearsed their stand-ups for election day reports.
Up the river at the Musée d’Orsay art museum, which contains works by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne, people waited for hours in a line that zigzagged around the block before it trickled through metal detectors and X-ray machines at the museum’s entrance.
This was a bellwether day for French democracy, and the fears of a terrorist attack were high.
On the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a makeshift memorial stands at the spot where, on April 20, an Islamist militant killed French police officer Xavier Jugelé. Within a mound of collected flowers are handwritten notes, candles, and pictures of Jugelé.

A memorial for French police officer Xavier Jugelé, who was killed by an Islamist militant on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on April 20. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
The memorial is remindful of the ones that went up on the Promenade des Anglais boardwalk in Nice after a deadly terrorist attack in July 2016, or in front of the Bataclan nightclub in Paris after a terrorist attack, which left 89 dead, in November 2015, or in front of the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine in January 2015 after another lethal terrorist attack.
On this day, election day, the sidewalks of the Champs-Élysées were packed almost shoulder-to-shoulder with pedestrians. At the memorial at the site of Jugelé’s murder, a small group of passers-by paused to silently and reverently consider what had happened here a little more than two weeks ago.

Passers-by pause at the site where French police officer Xavier Jugelé was killed by an Islamist militant on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
Meanwhile, as unaware tourists marched past, a bullet hole remained in a nearby light pole.
It reminded this correspondent of the top of Institutskaya Street in central Kyiv, Ukraine (now renamed Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred Street) where bullet holes remain in light poles from the 2014 revolution, evidence of when government snipers gunned down protesters in the waning days of deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime.

A bullet hole remains on a light pole on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from an April 20 attack by an Islamist militant. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
Scars of violence on the streets of Kyiv and Paris—reminders, in both places, of the thin veneer that separates civilization from chaos. A dividing line, which is growing thinner in capitals across Europe.
“France will remain divided after the election,” Marco said from Le Saint Germain cafe. “This election will change nothing.”