The La Rotonde brasserie in Paris has a storied past as a haunt for the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, and Trotsky. This spring it’s back in the news for a different kind of guest: Emmanuel Macron, who took his entourage to La Rotonde after winning the first round of the presidential election on April 23.
The celebration and triumphant victory speech that preceded it struck many as premature, given that the 39-year-old political neophyte must still face Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front in a runoff on May 7. The press criticized Macron as tone-deaf, #larotonde became a Twitter meme, and Le Pen pounced on the event as proof that Macron was an “elite Parisian” out of touch with traditional values. “Macron could find nothing better to do than to celebrate?” asks Thomas Guénolé, a professor of politics at the Sciences Po institute in Paris. “He needed to show himself as a statesman, and instead he comes across as a child king.”
The misstep is highly unlikely to cost Macron the presidency, because polls show him beating Le Pen by at least 20 percentage points. The greater risk is that it will tarnish his image with a divided electorate and weaken his hand in parliamentary elections in June. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy was dogged by fallout from a 2007 election night dinner at a glitzy restaurant on the Champs-Élysées that helped earn him the nickname “President Bling-Bling.”
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