Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
A week ago, the results of the first round of the presidential election in France came out. Last Sunday was also an exciting day, a memorable day, but above all a really stressful one.
In my previous post about French politics I explained how much this election meant to me because it was going to be my first time voting in a presidential election, I’d been following the campaign for months and particularly that of my very awesome candidate whose ideas I supported entirely.
So last Sunday, I woke up feeling exciting and equally anxious about the results. It’s such a big deal for me and France and the results would also have a major impact on the future of Europe.
My mother and I had decided to go to vote together after lunchtime to avoid queueing. I was way too excited to go, finally make my vote official and feel like I’d participated in politics, like I’d finally added a little brick in the wall (don’t know if this is also an expression in English but it is in French and I like it). I was way too excited to go though and kept pestering my mother so we could go.
Then it was finally time to go. Honestly, my excitement had abandoned me because things had became way too real. I tried to remain optimistic but wasn’t expecting my candidate to get to the second round of the election despite his incredible progress in polls recently. This election was going to be historic for the left, yes, we all knew that, but we also knew that it might not be enough.
The build up the past months and last weeks of the campaign was coming to an ends. Before leaving our flat, I felt exactly like I did before sitting important exams. Remember the minutes before your A-level exams started? That’s exactly how I felt. I gathered my “carte électorale” (polling card) and ID card, check whether I’d put them in my pockets at least ten times, and we went.
The whole thing was almost absurd. The place where we went to vote was super quiet, and not in the nicest building ever. Months of campaign, hours and hours spent watching my candidate’s amazing Youtube videos, his beautiful speeches full of hope for a better country and better world that moved me – it was all over. In one click (yeah, we vote electronically), it was over. I pressed his name, checked three times that I’d chosen the right candidate (how ironic would it have been if I hadn’t?) and validated my choice. Then I heard the very symbolic and almost moving “a voté” (“has voted”) said by the council person. I signed next to my name on, left, and was done. I couldn’t resist smiling though.
It was such a strange feelings I’m sure anyone who’s ever felt really involved can understand. Then I was just really stressed for the rest of the day, avoided social media and spent my time watching The Walking Dead with my brother (it was my last day home and last day together for a long time anyway, so we wanted to make the most of it!).
As the time for results got closer, I can’t say how stressed I got. I was hoping my candidate to reach third place if he didn’t get to the second round of the election and was hoping that the final “fight” would be between Macron and Le Pen, rather than Le Pen and Fillon. A bit before 8pm, I sat in front of the TV and waited for 15 minutes until the countdown reached zero. I held my breath for a few seconds before the results came out.
Then the faces of Le Pen and Macron came on the screen and that was it. I can’t even describe how I felt. It was a mix of disappointment, relief, sadness and neutrality. Why be surprised? That’s what everyone had predicted (or how much had they influenced us?) for ages. So the second round was definitely going to be between neo-liberalism and fascism. Wonderful.
Still, I was relieved in a way. The real disappointment came a few seconds later when I saw that Fillon was in third place, Mélenchon (my candidate) fourth – very close to each other.
Then I just left and went back to The Walking Dead – my very needed escapism. The prospect of a zombie apocalypse was almost pleasant compared to real life.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s campaign had been amazing. It is impossible to describe it unless you’ve followed it. Explaining it is useless but all I wanted to say is that I felt like, for a few months, I’d been part of something. Part of a major movement, almost part of History –sitting behind a screen. And I loved it. I was obviously in denial, a bit shocked that fascism and other things I find despicable are still supported by so many people. I’ll risk being called naïve but it doesn’t matter: it couldn’t and still can’t understand how people can be so selfish, not care for themselves, their future, their children’s future, and that of the planet too (yeah, because Mélenchon focused a lot on ecology, I’m not just being a hippie).
A part of me wanted to cry, but Joshua (my boyfriend) fortunately reminded me that we need to stay positive and hopeful, that Mélenchon and La France Insoumise had done amazingly well and started from almost nothing last year, that there would be the legislative elections soon, that for the next presidential election in five years he might do even better… I’m already excited for 2022!
After denial came anger. The huge pessimist that I am never imagined he’d get to the second round but I was still hoping I was wrong. The reason why I was angry is because I had so many hopes for a better France, for a radical but positive change, for people to stop blaming all the problems of the world on Muslims and those damn immigrants and refugees… And above all, because I’d only just realised that, had he won, things might not have worked as he’d planned, and he might not even have been re-elected after five years.
I can’t believe it’s only been a week, probably because I’ve gone through all sorts of emotions after that and went back to university. Now I am and we are facing a dilemma: voting for Macron or abstention. Everyone’s talking about it, in French and British media. For most people though, the real question is: Macron or fascism?
My choice was made a long time ago, I don’t even need to think about it. There is no way I will let someone like Le Pen take over France, ruin it, and tear everyone apart even more. Even if that means voting for someone I would never support. Hopefully I can still look at myself in a mirror afterwards!
PS: During the day I went through my good old classical French plays (Le Cid, Phedre) to find a very dramatic quote that would describe my feelings in the evening (something like: “I’m dying, heeeeeeeeelp!”). I couldn’t find any but my mother reminded me that I had a dictionary of French quotes! I found these two quotes by Sartre perfect.
A visual representation of my feelings: