By Leila Hatoum
“I am happy that I did not wake up to the news of fear triumphing in France… Good morning optimism #MacronWon #LePenLost,” wrote the famed pan-Arab Lebanese presenter Zeina Soufan on her twitter page the day after the French elections were concluded.
— زينة صوفان (@zeina_soufan) May 8, 2017
If anything, there had been an air of anticipation and fear among Arabs that the right wing in France might repeat the U.S.’s own surprise when electing a president for the country. And it seems that Soufan’s happiness had transcended her to encompass officials and Arab media personalities who were against the right wing, whom the French voted out in favor of the young Emmanuel Macron, who won with a staggering 66 percent of the wotes, versus 34 percent for Le Pen.
At 39 years of age, Macron has already entered history as France’s youngest elected president, since 1848, when Napoleon III became president at 40. However, it seems that the elaborate political and economic analysis run by international media outlets and researchers concerning the young president and his past expertise as a banker and economist, and his academic excellence, did not leave a strong impact on many Arabs spread across social media networks.
Many have taken to their pages with funny posts and comments, especially when comparing the age of France’s new president and his Arab counterparts. Hassan A. Mourad took to Facebook to post a comparative image between Macron as an embryo in 1977 and the current Algerian President, Abdulaziz Bou Teflika, now 80, but 40 at the time of Macron’s birth year. The image has also found its way to Instagram and has gone viral ever since. In the same context, Anwar Malek posted on twitter a remark that garnered a lot of retweets and hilarious comments. “I have seen 4 French presidents assume power in France, Macron being the fourth at the age of 39, while Bou Teflika is still on his chair, which has turned into a wheelchair ruling a country that claims to be a popular, democratic republic,” wrote Malek, in reference to the Algerian president. Of course, the post came along with a self explanatory image.
عايشت 4رؤساء لفرنسا رابعهم ماكرون عمره 39عاما في حين مازال بوتفليقة على كرسيه الذي صار متحركا يحكم دولة تزعم أنها جمهورية وديمقراطية وشعبية! pic.twitter.com/AF8w9thSuO — أنور مالك (@anwarmalek) May 7, 2017
The remarks didn’t stop there. Several Lebanese twitter accounts sarcastically demanded that their politicians be as gracious as Le Pen in accepting defeat and congratulating their opponent instead of “burning the streets.” One Facebook account said he had forgotten the names of the French presidents because they change often, adding “I wish the French learn from us Arabs, because we stick to one leader for a really, really long time.”
Back on Twitter, Huda, an Arab herself, made fun of Arabs who were so consumed with the French elections and thanking God for Le Pen’s loss, while being bombed and burned in their own war zones. She wrote: “#Macron & #FrenchElections, an overly exaggerated Arab interest in the narrative. Ironic! #caricature.”
All in all, most of the comments about Macron, who holds the same name as a famous, currently trendy brand of French sweets, revolved about the huge age gap of (24 years) between his wife Brigitte and himself. One Arab satirically said that Arabs are saying that Macron “is so romantic to still be in love with his 64-year old wife, but they will definitely make fun of any Arab official who would marry an older lady.”
On the other hand, Macron himself directed a message to American scientists and researchers that many would categorize as dark comedy.
In his message, Macron invited scientists and researchers in the U.S., especially those working in the fields of global warming and the environment to come live in France, where they can carry their research and studies in peace away from U.S. Donald Trump’s threats and attempts to cut their funding. Trump had repeatedly hinted, as many in his administration, that they do not believe global warming was a real and existing issue.