As you’ve probably noticed, France has elected a new president. From a British point of view, the French system is quite peculiar in that not only do the people directly elect the President, but there are also are two rounds of voting – unless one candidate wins an outright majority (more than 50%) in the first round, which, while theoretically possible, has never actually happened. What happens is that all the different candidates, who usually come from right across the political spectrum, face off in the first round and then the two candidates who get the highest number of votes face each other in the second round, which is held two weeks later. After the first round, the two remaining candidates generally hold a couple of final rallies – and there are tough restrictions on what the French media can and can’t mention in the run-up to the final vote. So, for example, media outlets there were not allowed to mention anything about the content of the hacked emails which were stolen last Friday from mailboxes linked to Emmanuel Macron, and dumped online, along with what are said to be numerous fake emails.
The final round pitted Macron, a former civil servant and investment banker who only founded his centrist political movement En Marche! last year, against Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National party. Many had been predicting a tight contest, with lots of disillusioned voters choosing not to vote for either candidate, but in the end, Macron won by a big majority. He got around 65% of the vote, while Le Pen only got 35%. In other words, he won by a landslide.
People can win an election by a landslide, and political parties can win a landslide victory. Usually, when there’s such a decisive victory, it gives the winners a clear mandate: it gives them the authority to do the things that they promised to do before the election. It strengthens their hand – it gives them more power, so they can push through new reforms or legislation.
Interestingly, the literal meaning of a landslide is a heavy fall of earth and rocks down the side of a mountain. Landslides can prove fatal. It is, though, a brave person who predicts that this election defeat will prove to be fatal to Marine Le Pen’s political ambitions!
- How are leaders chosen in your country? Are there any similarities with the French system?
- Can you think of any other politicians or political parties who’ve won a landslide victory?
- Why do you think many voters these days feel so disillusioned?
- Can you think of any scandals that have proved fatal to someone’s political ambitions?
- Are there any restrictions on what the media can and can’t report in your country?