France’s election of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen represents a huge victory for republican values against a party of hatred.
Today, as we commemorate Victory on Europe Day, marking the end of WW2, France can be proud to have demonstrated its desire to maintain its rank amongst the free nations by continuing to embrace a European project cherished by our generation which keeps us aways from the battlefields.
We sent a clear signal to the whole world: we refuse to be a society withdrawn into itself, which locks itself within the hatred of the other and the nostalgia of the past.
We proved that we refuse to give in to the wave of fear-mongering advocated by dangerous populists like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, for the first time, 11 million voters gave their trust to a xenophobic party, doubling the previous vote tally of Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, the last time The National Front made it to a run-off election. The abstention rate was 24%, the highest since 1969. The number of blank ballots was also very high. This presidential election marks a turning point in French political life.
For months, some political leaders tried to shake the foundations of democracy by targeting journalists, the judicial system and minorities. Marine Le Pen portrayed Emmanuel Macron as a cold-hearted former Rothschild banker, peddling old anti-Semitic stereotypes.
During this race, the National Front – which just announced that it will change its name in a rebranding effort – remained faithful to its past. Marine Le Pen tried to rewrite history by erasing the responsibility of Vichy France in the Vel d’Hiv raid and by appointing a Holocaust denier at the head of the National Front.
Marine Le Pen planned to prohibit wearing of a yarmulke in the streets as well as ritual slaughter. The truth is, French secularism should only be read as the separation of the Church and the State and the freedom for everyone to believe or not to believe.
Still, the true image of the National Front xenophobia resurfaced in Le Pen’s campaign, which promoted the slogan “France to the Frenchmen.”
Conspiracy theories and fake news also have crossed the Atlantic, and must be fought against. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with help from many Trump supporters, tried to shift the outcome of this election with the release of “Macron Leaks” a few hours before the end of the campaign. As a result, French journalists will have to redouble their efforts to regain legitimacy and credibility.
The Jewish students of France played a strong role in this presidential campaign by giving voice to the survivors of the Holocaust, by reviving a republican political alliance from right to left between the two elections rounds, by organizing the largest popular and peaceful protest against the National Front, by urging many students in universities not to abstain and by unveiling the true, ugly face of the National Front throughout the campaign.
From now on, let us hope that many French citizens will take part in the quest to rebuild society, in spite of our divisions, to care for those left behind, to listen to the raging anger and to preserve the human rights envied by the whole world.
More than ever, we will hold fast to our values and take part in the rebuilding of the republican constituency.
Sacha Ghozlan is the president of the Union of French Jewish Students.