In what turned out to be a significant victory, centrist Emmanuel Macron won the divisive French election with 65% of the vote. The 39-year- old political newcomer beat Marine Le Pen, the far right leader who wanted France to pull out of the European Union. French nationals living in New York couldn’t be happier, as they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Macron and his party, En Marche. On Election Day, Macron supporters gathered to watch the results together. Reporter Nina Friend attended the returns party yesterday afternoon.
FRIEND: At 1pm, Café Tallulah on 71st and Columbus is filled with French nationals hoping for good news. It’s hot, loud, and crowded. Nervous energy pulses through the space, and it smells like cigarettes and truffle fries. Reports from France fill the two large TV screens. Emilie, who didn’t want to give her last name, is from Paris. She moved to New York almost a year ago. Today, she’s nervous.
EMILIE: Everyone said that Brexit won’t happen. That Trump won’t happen. And it happened, so, I think it’s important to France to not go on the wrong side.
FRIEND: Her family is still in France, but she plans to stay in the states if Marine Le Pen wins.
EMILIE : If Marine became president, I’m not sure we’re gonna come home for the time she’s president.
FRIEND: Emilie’s husband, a Brazilian named Felipe Navarro, who became a French citizen upon marriage, is more hopeful.
NAVARRO: The American election brought some doubts I think to everybody, but I have some hope in the French people and I trust them to do the right choice.
FRIEND: Former journalist Anne-Marie Bennoun is downing a glass of wine, hoping for a better outcome than in the U.S. elections.
BENNOUN: I’m drinking before the results because I have the dual-citizenship and in November I end up not drinking at all.
FRIEND: Just 10 minutes before 2pm in New York and 8pm in France, when the polls close, the room becomes louder as more people file in. We’re squeezed so tightly you can feel someone’s heart beat on your back. At this point, Pace University student Kilian Tep starts to worry.
TEP: I’m starting to feel the stress right now. Sure, we’re all very optimistic, we all think that he’s gonna win, and he most likely will, but at the same time we have to be aware that we’re not necessarily representative of France as a whole.
FRIEND: And then, at 2pm, the room goes quiet.
AMBI: Quiet sound.
FRIEND: Macron wins in a landslide.
FRIEND: Some FaceTime their families back home. Others, like Veronica, pop champagne – the good stuff.
VERONICA: Democracy has won. After so many weeks of tension. And as I am holding my glass of champagne, this is really champagne, ok, from France, Veuve Cliquot (laughs).
FRIEND: Florent Joy is opening a bottle of his own. He has been the main point person for Macron’s campaign in New York City.
FLORENT: We’re all relieved to find that he’s won. For those of us who have been following and supporting Macron since the beginning it was more of a pride feeling, just a happiness for having spent the last nine months for a reason.
FRIEND: The votes in this room mattered. Joy says French expats make up 3% of the total electorate, larger than Paris.
FLORENT: The French people here today are very proud that Macron was able to overturn the direction that history was taking. En Marche!
FRIEND: A few more champagne toasts and by 3:30pm, many are getting ready to leave, to go back out into New York City, far from home.
Nina Friend, Columbia Radio News.