Macron Wins Battle for French Presidency. The War Lies Ahead !
Barely a year ago Emmanuel Macron was nowhere near being the President of France. That the pollsters finally proved right is reassuring as it has proved to be a victory for centrism and European integration. This ensured the resounding defeat of the far right nationalist Marie Le Pen who had threatened to pull out of the European Union.
The French have underlined they are not in favour of stereotype attitudes of leaders and chose to improvise and experiment. The Dutch should be given the credit for showing the way in March this year when they sent anti-Islam and anti-EU candidate Geert Wilders packing with only 13.5 per cent of the votes.
And now Macron has shown that the extreme right’s victory march can be halted decisively. At the same time a far right candidate in France has polled more than 30 per cent of the votes. This a worrisome factor.
There is no doubt Macron will still have to consolidate his party’s position in next month’s parliamentary elections for being able to govern with authority and assurance.
His facile win has also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties and come as a relief to European allies who feared another populist upheaval following Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as President.
The French youth have displayed their out of the box thinking and willingness to experiment. At 39 years old, Macron is the youngest President of France and is holding elected office for the first time. A former investment banker he has shown his willingness to transcend his country’s sharp left-right divisions.
What is surprising is that despite the poor opinion of Le Pen’s National Front because of its anti-immigrant policies, it broke the barrier of securing 30 per cent of the votes.
Macron’s first task would be to bridge the sharp divisions in the country along ideological lines. His political movement is barely a year old and starting from scratch. That might be an advantage as well as disadvantage. He will need to some juggling in fulfilling his pledge of overhauling and renewing French political life by having experienced political personalities from the left, right and centre.
It is widely believed that Macron’s will has saved France from itself. Having a European Union was a bold experiment. The pulling out of the EU is both costly and disruptive. At the same time the Eurozone will have to start moving towards greater monetary and fiscal union or it will have to be disbanded.
Macron’s plans include a Eurozone budget and Parliament. His political strategy along with his message of stability, pro-Europeanism and technocratic governance attracted a wide range of voters.
He mobilised outgoing President Francois Holland’s former electoral base. He benefitted from the massive vote transfers from the left, moderate left and right wing voters.
At a time when there is a leadership crisis in the democratic world with exclusive ideologies rebounding themselves as patriotic and populist, France can provide a counter narrative and leadership to a world in dire need of it.
Becoming President of France amounts to winning the battle, the war lies ahead. It is not clear how many seats his political startup En Marche! might get in next month’s Parliamentary elections traditionally dominated by mainstream Left and Right parties.
Macron faces huge challenges ahead particularly how successfully he runs the economy, brings about reconciliation among opposite viewpoints along with tackling the menace of terrorism. It is apparent the new President needs to act bodily and decisively for ringing in changes.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)