Emmanuel Macron's French Election Win Sours the Mood in Moscow

Emmanuel Macron
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards ! gives a thumb-up to supporters as he leaves a polling station after voting in the the second round of 2017 French presidential election, in Le Touquet, France, May 7. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Emmanuel Macron, the liberal independent centrist, is France's president-elect. The ex-socialist minister, who has never previously held elected office, won the contest that only four months ago looked likely to be a runoff between a conservative hard liner—the Republican party's Francois Fillon—and a far-right nationalist, Marine Le Pen. Where those candidates were pro-Russian, Macron is a staunch supporter of the EU, and politicians in Russia had mixed reactions to the news.

Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned his soon-to-be French counterpart on Monday with a message of support, urging him to help "overcome mutual mistrust" between the two countries and wishing him "good health." However, outside the Kremlin's official channels reactions were dispirited at best.

"We should evidently not expect serious positive movement in Russian-French relations," Senator Franz Klintsevich, head of the Defense Committee told state news agency RIA. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Affairs Committee agreed, telling the same news outlet, "Everything will be as it was under the outgoing president."

Read More: Why establishment Europe should not feel too relieved about Le Pen's loss

For the lawmakers, Macron's win dented hopes that in Fillon or Le Pen Moscow would have had a French leader opposed to troublesome EU policies such as sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict. Le Pen, whose party ran on a multimillion dollar loan from a little known Russian Czech bank, has even called for France to leave NATO.

Putin welcomed Macron's main rival, the National Front's Le Pen, called "Our Marine" in some state media, on her first public visit to the Kremlin in April. Though she said it was her first meeting with Putin, French investigative journalists and her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, suggested it could have been at least her second meeting with the Russian leader.

Despite Macron's win, Klintsevich noted he still saw hope for the future, saying there is "a large possibility" that Le Pen will return to win the 2020 election.

In the meantime Russian politicians have already begun to question Macron's mandate. "A minority of registered voters voted for Macron," Russian state news agency RIA Novosti announced, calculating that Macron had won 44 percent of all the registered voters in France, and pointing to regions where he had performed less well.

France and Europe "threw all propaganda resources" to unsettle Le Pen and back Macron, Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house's International Affairs Committee told RIA. "This was a vote less for Macron and more against the possible repetition of Brexit in the Fifth Republic."

French voters had opted for "weak France" that would benefit "all but the French themselves," Igor Lebedev, deputy speaker of Russian parliament told RIA.

"Under Macron the country will sail on the current of European decisions," he said, saying France had rejected its chance to dictate the agenda and have "independent policy." "I think that under Macron this will not be so and Germany will strengthen its position as the European Union's leader," he predicted.

Senator Alexey Pushkov, agreed with the sentiment and reiterated a comment Le Pen made in the presidential debate."A woman won the French elections anyway," Pushkov tweeted on Sunday. "That woman is [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel."

He also alluded to the third of French voters who opted for Le Pen, tweeting,"The French election did not reveal the winner but rather someone who will have to confront a large part of a nation that does not agree with his election."

Reiterating rhetoric Le Pen used during her campaign, Lebedev said all Macron would oversee was the arrival of more refugees that would "drive the French out of their minds".

"Paris has transformed into a city of Syrian refugees and soon all of France will turn into a country of refugees from Arab countries because Macron is in not state to take hard decisions," he concluded.

Less tactfully, pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda declared on Monday that the French "deserve Macron" and "should go through the hell of globalization."