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levy24_Benjamin-Cremel_AF_Getty-Images_french-ballots Benjamin Cremel/AFP/Getty Images

Reinventing the French People

French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to obtain a majority in the National Assembly was a resounding success. But there is more to it than that: 57% of French voters – a record high – abstained during the second round of the parliamentary election.

PARIS – “It is accomplished…” In the years when I listened to music nonstop, the passage marked by those words was for me one of the most intriguing in Bach’s St. John Passion.

In a plaintive soprano accompanied by a cello’s lament, lingering between song and silence, the memory came back to me on Monday morning, the day after the second round of France’s parliamentary election. The event that has been accomplished, of course, is President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to obtain a majority in the National Assembly.

But, whether we like it or not, there is more to the event than that. Another accomplishment was the record-high abstention rate: 57% of French voters disdained the rare and precious privilege of voting, a privilege invented several centuries ago by men who believed in deliberation, reason, and enlightenment.

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