Many considered Emmanuel Macron as an “outsider” in French politics a couple of years ago. However, the centre-left presidential candidate has managed to alter the course of national politics. His remarkable rise from obscurity to favourite for the Presidential Election on May 7th carries a symbolic value well beyond his homeland. Interestingly, Macron’s performance in the first-round of Presidential Election on April 23 is not the only shaking incident. The important thing is that he has brought a breath of fresh air to his countrymen at a time when ultra-nationalism makes a wave in two continents: Europe and America.
Marine Le Pen of the National Front (NF) managed to finish second and went on to face Macron in the next round. As former Prime Minister Francois Fillon of the Gaullist Republican Party, who finished third, and the Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon, who secured the fourth position, decided to back Macron in case of a two-way fight, the former Socialist economy minister’s victory in the Presidential Election is almost certain.
In the first-round, French people stunningly rejected the status quo, as neither of the two main parties – Socialists or Republicans – made it to final round (a first in France). The outcome of the first-round shows there is an electorate split over the country’s future and the next round will decide future of Europe, globalisation and the identity of France.
Le Pen and Macron have polar opposite political visions. Heads far right NF (once known for xenophobia and anti-Semitism), 48-year-old Le pen presents vision that’s anti-globalisation, anti-EU and anti-immigrant. She promises Frexit and referendum to get France out of the EU. She also rails against “Islamic fundamentalism”. Le Pen and Melenchon are Eurosceptics. They argue that France must free itself from the EU before it can flourish and portray it as governed by an immoral, out-of-touch ruling elite and sclerotic political system.
On the other hand, 39-year-old Macron, a completely untried politician, is a former economy minister and his goal is to work on policies that would combine state protection, as well as business freedom to innovate. He represents En Marche, a new centre-left party. He talks of a more open, tolerant and inclusive France at the centre of a strong EU. Macron, who also wants to liberalise the French economy, is critical of Brexit and Donald Trump. Experts believe that his apparent inexperience could work for him. The voter turnout on April 23 was around 70%. For Macron to win the Presidential Poll, such impressive turnout (or higher) is required on May 7. With Macron securing the maximum percentage of votes in the first-round, it is expected that pro-European liberalism will prevail in France in near future. That is why the French Presidential Election is so important for the European Union (EU) this time.
Experts believe that this is the most significant election in France in the post-WWII period. And the significance is not limited to the boundaries of France. The existence of the entire Europe will depend on the ideology of the next French president. We have to remember that France strongly backed Greece when intense economic crisis rocked the south-eastern European nation in recent past. The Greek crisis also triggered an interim conflict among the EU member countries. Immediately after securing the top position in the first-round of Presidential Election, Macron made a phone call to Athens in order to prevent the Greek anxiety.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered as the de facto leader of the EU, breathed a sigh of relief after receiving the news that Macron took a lead in the first-round of election in France. This excitement proves that the existence of the European block depends a lot on the next French leadership.
France and Britain are considered as “historic rivals” in Europe. This trend is going on since the era of medieval Protestant-Catholic divisions. The 2017 Presidential Election in France is no exception. While Britain is gearing up for leaving the EU permanently, Macron’s France will try hard to stabilise the bloc. Will there be any difficulty or obstruction in the Brexit process in case of a Macron victory in Paris? Although the answer is ‘no’, the outcome of the French Presidential Election may encourage people in Britain and other parts of Europe to re-think about Brexit in a different way. However, such variations are very much expected.
Different types of historical waves flew alongside in different parts of the world in the past. Such country-based variations can also strengthen the global politics in future. What is important is that France has raised voice against conservatism and sectarianism, and sent a different message to the international community at a time when the idea of ultra-nationalism is spreading rapidly throughout the world. The world is waiting for a Macron victory in France.