The French electoral system is organised as a two-round race: in the first round, the less competitive candidates are eliminated, and in the second round, the votes obtained by the latter are concentrated on the two remaining contenders. The fact that the candidates excluded from the ballot did not reach the final stage of the competition, however, does not mean that the votes they received in the first round do not count politically, on the contrary: the preferences they obtained signal the fact that a part of the electorate preferred the “ eliminated“ to the “ finalists „. The circumstance that in the second round some of those preferences converge on the two most voted candidates in the first is only a consequence of the way the electoral system is structured. In other words, the additional votes that the two candidates in the runoff get compared to the first round are not an indication of a political choice convincingly expressed by the voters, but only the consequent need that the electoral system imposes on citizens to choose the „less unwelcome“ – and not the preferred – of the two finalists.

Turning to an analysis of the absolute numbers emerging from the just concluded French election, we can identify the following aspects: 1) in the first round, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen obtained respectively 9,783,058 and 8,133,828 preferences, which together reach the quota of 17,916,886 valid votes; 2) in the same round, the other candidates obtained a total of 17. 216,601 preferences, which together with the blank and void ballots reach 18,006,821 units; 3) if we add the 12,824,169 abstentions, we arrive at a figure of 30,830,990 voters out of 48,747,876 eligible to vote (equal to 63.24%) who did not express a preference for the two most voted candidates; 4) in the second round, 32. 077,401 french citizens voted for Macron and Le Pen together; 5) adding the 13,656,109 abstentions to the 13,656,109 abstainers to the 2,228,044 blank and the 790,946 void ballots, we have 16,675,099 voters who did not give their preference to the two candidates in the run-off; 6) in the second round Le Pen obtained 13,297,760 preferences, 5,163. 932 more than in the first round, while Macron got 18,779,641 votes, an increase of 8,996,583; 7) together, the two most voted candidates got 32,077,401 votes in the runoff, while abstainers, blank and void ballots together came to 16,675,099; 8) those who did not vote for Macron in the runoff were 29,972,769.

The conclusion from this brief analysis is that the French electoral system incorporates a dangerous electoral and political „trompe-l’oeil“, which risks misleading the observer who only considers the percentages of preferences expressed and not the absolute figures. In fact, the real data shows that a minority of French citizens actively supported the re-election of the outgoing President; that the „selective“ votes expressed in the first round describe a French electorate divided into three political areas (one of the extreme left, one of the Macronists and one of the extreme right); that compared to the first round, Macron doubled his votes in the runoff, but for systemic reasons they were more „against Le Pen“ than „for Macron“; that in the runoff Le Pen managed to attract more than 5 million more votes than in the first round: this is a significant figure for a candidate who is an expression of the nationalist and Eurosceptic radical right, especially in the future, since, unlike the re-elected Macron, Le Pen will be eligible again in 2027, at the time of the next presidential elections; that Macron’s political consensus owes much more to his personal charisma than to the attractiveness of La République En Marche, the political movement he founded in 2016 and which, as mentioned above, will have to prove in 2027 that it can continue to gain support from the French voters without being able to count on the attractiveness of its founder.

The overall scenario that emerges from this picture, wiped out by the ‚optical illusions‘ produced by the electoral system, should be considered with the utmost caution: otherwise, we risk finding ourselves in a few years‘ time facing a French and European political context that is different from the one we thought we were witnessing.

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