Paris: A few minutes after 8 pm (Central European Time Zone) on Sunday, the serious faces of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen revolved dramatically on giant screens set up in the public grounds of the Louvre, whirling for a few seconds until the results flashed. Macron had won the French presidential election with 65 percent of the vote. In the dying light of the day, the crowd erupted, the nation collectively exhaled.
The Centre had held on and the Right had been beaten.
"Congratulations, Emmanuel! Let’s rock Paris," shouted the American singer Cris Cab from the temporarily-installed stage at the Louvre where the Macron campaign had set up a public viewing. He told the crowd that Macron had called and requested that he sing An Englishman in New York. It wasn’t clear why the president-elect had selected this Sting track, but no one really cared; he had earned the right to request any song he wanted.
"It is a big day for us," said Hakiri Saoussen, 27, a court functionary, who was among the thousands shouting and celebrating at the Louvre on Sunday evening. "We can hope for a better future. Macron represents a new party (En Marche!), he is not just Right or Left. He will be good for France."
Strobe lights flashed and although the temperature dipped through the evening, the enthusiasm did not. "We liked his ideas, we knew he would win," said Fleur De Font Reaulx, 18, who had come with her friend Alix De Bonneval, 19 — both students.
Not just the natives, but foreigners of all stripes gathered at the Louvre to partake of this singular moment of national joy and global relief that extreme populism had been stalled for now.
"I am happy that nothing will change for me," said Alexandra Sobczyk, 24, a Polish architect working in Paris, "France showed it is a true republic and that extremism won’t win here."
Elsewhere, and in the press room to be precise, one journalist was reminding his television audience that Napoléon Bonaparte had been 40 years old when he took over, just a year older than Macron. Even the room’s WiFi password was bookended by exclamation marks — a sort of punctuating high-five anticipating a celebratory mood to come.
In the near distance, the lights of the Eiffel Tower glowed a warm yellow. Thousands of red-white-blue tricolours danced in the wind.
They came with the flags, they wore the t-shirts, they flashed the mile-wide smiles through painted faces. Hosting the upbeat crowd, the Louvre building acquitted itself honorably as the grand setting for the occasion. All evening, one jubilant number after the other tore through the public speakers as delirious folks danced, shouted, waved. "Feel the magic in the air, Allez, allez, allez," sang the onstage band. The French air had one part magic, one part palpable relief, and one part some ineffable snooty pride at holding out against the tides that their Anglo-phone counterparts had not been able to withstand.
There had been no unexpected upset, no Brexit-like reckoning, no Donald Trump-shaped despair to cloud the evening. On Sunday it was all liberty, equality and fraternity; with a side of sanity.
"After Austria and Netherlands another country has defeated the Far Right," said Luca Nicotra, 34, an Italian activist who came waving his European Union flag as an acknowledgment of Macron’s commitment to the EU.
As Macron strode in to the Louvre a little after 10pm to address the crowds, the several minutes he took to walk to the stage were set to the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
That choice of song, the official anthem of the European Union, was an auditory exclamation point all of its own. Not just a country, but a continent could celebrate.
Updated Date: May 08, 2017 08:57 AM