To win election even after separating himself from the traditional political culture (right and left) is a huge success. Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron established his ‘En Marche!’ party in 2016 (just a year before the French Presidential Election). He protected the newly-formed party from the influence of leftist politics, announcing that En Marche! would simplify the company policy. He also fought against excessive rightist influence in French politics and promised to reduce unemployment-related problems quickly. Macron was strongly in favour of the European Union (EU), the Western Alliance and the euro.
Macron’s economic ideology had been vague to many and it was also not clear whether he could motivate the French people with this ideology. But, the French people have shown courage to go beyond their traditional loyalties toward the age-old political culture and have given the 39-year-old gentleman a chance to implement his policies for the betterment of France. As a result, the independent centrist candidate decisively defeated his far-right nationalist rival in the May 7 Presidential Election. While Macron received 66.1% or 20,703,694 votes, Marine Le Pen of the National Front bagged 33.9% or 10,637,120 votes. Macron’s victory has proved that his mish-mash of free-market reforms and liberal social values is well within the French political mainstream. He shows how liberals can turn the tide against populism. Indeed, this is a very strong message.
Although Macron has won the battle, the war is still on. The president-elect is well aware of the fact that he will have to unify a deeply fractured country. The European project will be safe for now, but the new president faces many internal challenges. It is clear from the outcome of the Presidential Poll that the aggressive conservatism has spread enough in France. Le Pen and her National Front have already started assessing their next steps after facing defeat. The French election verdict is a victory for Europe too, but strong gains by anti-EU Le Pen will test Macron’s agenda of openness. The issues that Le Pen raised are not going away. She gained twice the support that her father Jean-Marie Le Pen (the founder of National Front) did when he contested the Presidential Poll in 2002, cementing the far-right’s hold on the French political landscape. Le Pen was strongest in areas with high unemployment and low wages, where she campaigned on pledges to stop immigration and renegotiate France’s relationship with the EU.
Now, the newly-elected president will have to prove that his election promises were genuine and France can maintain a steady economic growth, despite maintaining close ties with the European bloc. Macron, who campaigned on a centrist, pro-Europe platform, gained widespread support from voters, who rejected him in the first round of poll. The vote preserved a French political tradition of major parties working together to bar candidates from the far-right. Many said that they saw Macron as the lesser of two evils. However, most demographic groups, like urban, rural, places with high unemployment and low unemployment, backed him. Macron won nearly 90% of the vote in Paris, while Le Pen’s only strong results were in areas where she won decisively in the first round.
This time, France has recorded lowest voter turnout since 1969 and nearly 9% of French voters have filed blank ballots, a measure of dissatisfaction. So, Macron is facing the difficult job of healing a divided France and persuading the country to accept the EU.
Paris and other capitals of the world breathed a sigh of relief after the French Presidential Election as they knew that a Le Pen victory could have spelt the end of the EU. The international community has expressed hope that the anti-immigrant wave, which dominated the West in recent past, will begin to ebb.
In such a situation, the new president cannot afford to fail. The French presidential verdict is a battlefield victory and an important one not only for Macron, but also for entire world. France has a huge challenge ahead of governing itself.
The country’s environment is not very investment-oriented. So, it will be difficult for Macron to achieve his goals without making some changes in the French socio-political environment. Democratic countries across the globe, including America, Britain and India, will anxiously watch how he will boost the stagnant French economy.