THE first round of the presidential election, taking place on Sunday just days after an Islamic State-inspired terrorist killed one policeman and injured others on the Champs Élysées (News, 21 April), was won by the centrist newcomer, Emmanuel Macron, who received 24 per cent of the vote.
The leader of the right-wing Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen, came second with 21.3 per cent. The two will battle it out for the presidency in the second-round election on 7 May.
Despite the murder on Thursday of last week of a police officer — later named as Xavier Jugelé, aged 37 — the atrocity did not overshadow Sunday’s vote, the Chaplain of St George’s, Paris, Canon Matthew Harrison, said.
“It doesn’t feel like it is on the same register at all as, for example, the murder of the priest in Rouen,” he said on Tuesday. “That did affect everyone and churches in particular. We thought about our security. This doesn’t feel like that, or Bataclan, where everybody knew somebody who was involved. It doesn’t feel like it is in the same league.”
The US Episcopalian Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, said that his daughter was near by as the terror attack unfolded.
“Daughter Marie-Noëlle was on the Champs Elysees and heard the shots fired. Home now thank God. Relieved...,” he said on Twitter.
All the candidates suspended the final day of campaigning out of respect for Mr Jugelé, but Canon Harrison did not believe that the crime had significantly changed the way people voted.
“There were accusations that Marine Le Pen and [the mainstream centre-right candidate] François Fillon used [his death], but I think probably it did not swing things particularly either way in the vote,” he said.
An Anglican of the other chaplaincy in Paris, St Michael’s — who did not want to be named — said that sadly terror attacks such as last week’s on the Champs Élysées had become the “new normal” in Paris, and news of the shooting had soon been “more or less eclipsed” by the elections.
Despite the series of attacks on French soil in recent years by Islamist-inspired terrorists, however, the French people had by and large refused to give in to fear and division, Canon Harrison said. “The reaction to the Jacques Hamel killing (News, 26 July) and those sorts of events from the vast majority of the French people has been so good.”
St Michael’s were determined to keep the church’s doors open despite the explicit threats made against Christians.
The Bishops’ Conference has released a reflection on the first round of voting, which did not endorse either of the final two candidates, but warned against yielding to “fatalism”.
France’s RCs have traditionally backed the mainstream centre-right parties, represented this year by Mr Fillon, but the FN had also sought to appeal to traditionalist RCs, in particular through its frequent references to Joan of Arc, Canon Harrison said.