Relief, not joy, at low-key Macron election party
PARIS (AFP) - At Emmanuel Macron's election party on Sunday (April 24) in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the atmosphere was restrained, the victory speech short and most people felt relief, rather than a desire to celebrate wildly.
After a campaign shadowed by the war in Ukraine and with far-right leader Marine Le Pen achieving a historic high score, few seemed in the mood to revel in the French leader's electoral triumph.
"I think he realises that he wasn't elected by a huge majority, it was a bit by default," 25-year-old Pauline Pavan said as the crowd slipped away into the Parisian night.
President Macron had walked slowly to the stage in a park in front of the Eiffel Tower to the sound of the European Union's anthem "Ode To Joy" by Beethoven, flanked by his wife Brigitte.
His short address was low-key and modest as he acknowledged that many French people had not voted for him, but rather against his rival Le Pen.
Several supporters with loud speakers attempted to rouse the crowd with shouts of "Macron, President!".
"It was a lot more sombre than in 2017," said Luca Bouvais, a 20-year-old student, referring to Macron's initial presidential victory party five years ago, when he triumphed as an outsider in his first ever election.
"I sensed that people were holding back," he added. "Personally I was expecting a closer result, even that she (Le Pen) could win, so I felt relief above all."
Relief - "soulagement" in French - was the word on most people's lips after Le Pen failed in her third bid for the presidency, but with her highest ever score of 42 per cent.
"I'm relieved because I was very worried," said Jackie Boissard, a 60-year-old bank employee. "He will now need to take into account everyone because there's too much hatred in the country."
Many people present said they had voted for Macron on Sunday, but for left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon or Greens nominee Yannick Jadot in the first round of the election two weeks' ago.
They acknowledged that Macron had tried to reach out to the left in the latter stages of campaigning, as well as those concerned about the environment.
"His social policies are very tough," said Guillaume Ledun, 51, who works in film and described himself as left-wing. "I understand that a lot of people voted for Le Pen." He said many of his friends had not cast a ballot on Sunday after feeling like they had done their duty and voted against Le Pen in 2017 and her father Jean-Marie in 2002 to block the far-right from power.
"But now they're fed up," he said. "They feel like there isn't a choice."