Champagne flowed amid applause at Cafe Tallulah in the Upper West Side, New York City on Sunday. There, French expats and tourists alike celebrated France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron.
More than 100 people bunkered in the restaurant’s basement lounge for a watch party hosted by En Marche! New York, the local branch of the movement Macron launched in April 2016. The centrist Macron won with 66.1 percent of the overall vote (and 95 percent in the New York metropolitan area).
Florent Joly, who founded the local chapter, felt relieved — even when polls had predicted a Macron victory against his contender, Marine Le Pen, of the extreme-right National Front party, who earned almost 34 percent of the overall vote. “This past week, I haven’t slept, waking up every hour,” said Joly, 27.
Macron supporters were especially nervous about France’s position in light of Brexit and Trump. For most expats, a transatlantic Trump effect or the possibility of Frexit loomed over an already unprecedented election – neither candidate from established left or right-wing parties advanced to the second round of voting. “There’s still much work left to reunite people in France,” said Marine Boudeau, a front-end web developer for En Marche. “That 34 percent of the National Front is still too big.”
Joly, who had been canvassing for En Marche in New York since August, said he couldn’t entirely enjoy the moment. An “anxious person,” he hesitated about the movement’s momentum once the pressure of the election fades. “I hope what we’ve done stays,” he said. “I hope the revolution will spread to other countries. I hope that his electorate won’t just sit back.”
Marine Le Pen gave her concession speech minutes after official exit polls confirmed she had lost. Expressing the usual “France first” discourse, she said the name of her party will change “to create a new political force.”
Relief was the dominant feeling at the cafe. Jacqueline Traoré, 23, said a Le Pen administration would’ve put her French-Malian dual citizenship in jeopardy. In the wake of France’s domestic terrorist attacks, Le Pen proposed legislation where dual citizens from non-European countries would’ve been forced to choose one nationality. “It consolidates a sense of home. I still feel welcome,” said Traoré, who attended French schools most of her life. She is earning her master’s degree in journalism at New York University.
Besides politics, some expats, like Yves Le Maout, who works at a tech startup in New York, look forward to Macron’s “pragmatic” vision for a more global economy. Macron, who had been an investment banker before he quit his post as minister of economy in President François Hollande’s administration, aims to reform the tax and pension system and promote entrepreneurship in France.
In the meantime, En Marche! New York heads, well, onward. Joly plans to prolong the chapter’s outreach efforts for the next elections in June, when voters will elect the 577 members of the 15th National Assembly of the Fifth French Republic. Expats in the United States and Canada will be eyeing the election of the parliamentary member representing the North American constituency. Frédéric Lefebvre has held the position since 2013.
“What’s going to happen next?” once said Tristan De Terves, who runs a design marketing agency in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “What’s going to happen to the Socialist Party? Is it over? What about the historical center-right party? Are they totally going to join Macron?”
As the watch-party waned, about 20 people lingered at Café Tallulah. At 10:45 p.m. Paris time, Macron stood in front of the Louvre’s glass pyramid, where he gave his victory speech. For Joly, this momentary finish line has become the first leg in a five-year race. “It’s just the beginning,” he said.
Alexander Gonzalez is a Master student in Magazine Journalism at New York University.