Emmanuel Macron, “most poorly elected” president since Pompidou? Not that easy

Is Emmanuel Macron really the most “most poorly elected of the presidents of the Fifth Republic”? This is in any case what Jean-Luc Mélenchon said on Sunday evening, less than thirty minutes after the first estimates. The gap between the two candidates in the second round is however significant: the outgoing president obtained 58.5% of the votes in the second round, against 41.5% for Marine Le Pen. But the rebellious leader insists on the need to put this result in perspective with the “ocean of abstention, of blank and invalid ballots”. What is it really? Decryption.


Emmanuel Macron, “good” or “bad” elected president? It all really depends on what you are comparing. If we take into account the percentage of votes obtained by Emmanuel Macron compared to all those registered on the electoral lists, the latter obtains only 38.5% of the votes. This figure takes into account the historically high abstention from this ballot (28%) as well as the blank (4.6%) and invalid (1.6%) votes to which Jean-Luc Mélenchon refers. By way of comparison, during his first term, he obtained 43.61% of the votes of registered voters.

Thus, if we refer to this indicator, Emmanuel Macron is indeed among the most poorly elected presidents… without being the last, as the leader of the Insoumis asserts. In 1969, Georges Pompidou was elected with 37.51% of the registered votes. Emmanuel Macron does just a little better, but less well than François Hollande (39.08% in 2012) and Jacques Chirac in 1995 (39.43%).

“The only president of the Fifth Republic to have obtained more than half of the votes of registered voters – 62% in this case – in the second round is Jacques Chirac in 2002 against Jean-Marie Le Pen”, recalls the sociologist Jean Tiberj, professor at Sciences Po Bordeaux. At the time, the context was very different: it was the first time that a far-right candidate qualified for the second round, causing an earthquake in French political life. And while abstention was exceptionally high in the first round, it is historically low in the second. Apart from this election, none of the other winners of the presidential election obtained the majority of the votes of those registered: the second being Charles de Gaulle with 45.2%.

For each indicator, its ranking

The trend is radically reversed if we look at the votes cast, that is to say when we compare the difference between the two candidates in the second round. On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron obtained 58.54% of the vote against Marine Le Pen. According to this criterion, this therefore places him as the third “best elected” president of the Fifth Republic (out of eleven ballots), behind Jacques Chirac in 2002 against Jean-Marie Le Pen (82.21%)… and himself. In 2017, for his first term, the leader of the Republic in March won 66.1% of the vote against Marine Le Pen. “But in a duel with the far right, Sunday night’s score remains the lowest gap, by far”, nuances the researcher.

If we take this time the number of votes cast, in absolute value therefore, Emmanuel Macron ranks fourth this time: more than 18.7 million voters slipped a ballot in his name into the ballot box on Sunday. This is far more than Charles de Gaulle in 1965 (13 million) or François Mitterrand in 1981 (15.7 million), but still less than Jacques Chirac in 2002 (25.5 million), Emmanuel Macron himself during the previous election (20.7), or even Nicolas Sarkozy against Ségolène Royale in 2007 (almost 19 million).

A steadily increasing abstention for fifteen years

But these data suffer from a non-negligible bias: they do not take into account the constant increase in the electorate. In 1965, there were nearly 29 million registered on the lists, there are now 48.7 million. The number of voters therefore increases mechanically. However, since 2007, fewer and fewer voters have come to vote in the second round. “Rather than comparing the scores of different presidents over time, it is on abstention that we must focus, believes Vincent Tiberj. When we were still in a logic of block against block – the left against the right – our system was representative. We voted by membership in the first round, then we referred to the candidate of his camp in the second. »

But according to the researcher, now that political life is divided into three or even four blocks, part of the electorate feels excluded from the second round… and is therefore less mobilized. “Our voting system is less and less representative, it prevents making visible the real balance of the country. Clearly: these figures, far from being an exception, could become the norm in future elections.

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