Macron’s incredible election
New French president wins by being completely different
Yesterday, Sunday 7th May 2017, the French people elected their new president – new in many senses of the word. His name is Emmanuel Macron and his story is very impressive. He never ran in an election before but he won on his first attempt at the age of 39. It is very inspiring and admirable.
His remarkable gamble to go for the presidency now was brilliant. He had political intelligence, luck and flaming ambition to go for it and win. Not many political leaders can do that. He has a touch of Barack Obama about him – young, very intelligent, relatively new to the political game, created his own movement instead of going by traditional party routes, focused on the future, positive messages and visions for France and good use of social media and ground campaigns to win.
It also helped enormously that his opponent was Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right Front National. There is no doubt that his victory is largely based on that French people wanted to ensure that Marine Le Pen was not elected. Had another person come in second place in the first round, the election would have been much tighter.
The BBC has a detailed biography and analysis of him. It is well worth reading.
We should remember the euphoria for Hollande’s election
Even though Macron has not yeet been inaugurated as the French president, some reporters are waxing lyrical about him and what he will achieve. This reminds me somewhat of the euphoria that greeted Francois Hollande’s election in 2012. Many people were happy to see the end of Nicolas Sarkozy and his bling bling presidency and the tough economic policies he was implementing. Hollande’s victory was meant to be the start of a new, happier era in France.
Unfortunately, in less than a year Hollande became very unpopular and the positivity and the expectation that things would get better during his presidency evaporated. Exceedingly fast! It is a shame as Hollande is a genuinely good person and leader – he was just ruined by a dreadful economic situation and repeated terrorist attacks that put everyone in France on edge. He finishes up his presidency as one of the most unpopular French leaders ever.
I have a feeling that the euphoria about Macron as president might be just as fickle. Politics in France is currently very divisive and France and EU have many problems regarding immigration, youth unemployment, Brexit, terrorism and strained relations with Russia. Any of these issues could make or break Macron’s presidency.
Regarding the EU, Macron’s election is a victory for the continuation and strenghtening of the EU. He is a completely committed to the EU and France’s place in it. With the negotiations for the exit of the UK from the EU about to begin, a victory for Marine Le Pen, who wants France out of the EU, would have been a disaster for the EU.
Macron will have probably the rest of this year to show that he can make a difference. If his party En Marche ! win the parliamentary elections taking place in a month, he will have the numbers in the Assemblé National to pass laws. If they do not win, well he may become like his predecessors and become a figure of hate as his fine talk of a better France will be remembered for just that – talk but no change.
The French far right are far from dead
While I will focus on Macron’s story, I am going to touch on the reality that the far right in France have not gone away and are probably going to advance in future elections. Some commentators are talking about the defeat of the far right in France but that would be unwise. Marine Le Pen did very well to become the candidate with the second largest amount of support in the first round of the elections. She increased the amount of votes that her father received in 2002. In the second round of the elections on Sunday, she received 34% of the votes. That is 11 million votes! It is a significant amount of votes that cannot be disregarded or fobbed off as a protest vote.
The Front National are planning already to consolidate this amount of votes and build on it. Marine Le Pen’s defeat was not a knock-out defeat. She can claim that more than a third of the French electorate vote for her. Already the Front National are preparing for the future to increase their appeal. One part of this will be to change the name of the party so that voters will not be put off by the name and its negative connotations from earlier times. This is a very clever move by them. The main right wing party in France, Les Républicains, did the same thing in 2015. They used to go by the very uninspiring name of UMP – l’Union pour un Mouvement Populaire – whatever that meant! The name Les Républicains has ideas of the French revolution and patriotism about it. I wonder what the Front National will choose. No doubt it will be something that will attempt to bring the party closer to the middle ground of French politics.
I wish the new president well
As a country that I am very fond of, I wish the new French president well. France has had a lot of problems in the last few years, particularly with horrendous terrorist attacks. France needs a leader who can bring the country together and move it forward. Macron has the potential to do this. Let us hope that he does. En marche !