6 Things to Watch As Macron Takes Office in France

May 16, 2017

“It’s still a deeply divided country.”


French voters elected centrist independent Emmanuel Macron as president on Sunday. A 39-year-old former investment banker, Macron will become the country’s youngest leader ever.


Although Macron defeated far-right populist Marine Le Pen, who leads the National Front party, by a whopping 33 points, France remains a deeply divided country. Anxieties persist over immigration, terrorism, globalization, and chronic unemployment.


And there is widespread disillusionment with the political establishment on both the left and the right. France’s two major political parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, are in tatters. The Republican candidate, François Fillon, earned just under 20 percent of the vote in the first round, tying far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The Socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon, was a complete disaster, earning last place in the first round with 6.2 percent of the vote.


Macron, who formed a new political party called En Marche in 2016, has promised to strengthen France’s ties to Europe, simplify the tax system, overhaul the labor market, and scale back needless regulations. But without a clear governing coalition, he will face a number of obstacles. If he’s unable to lift France out of its economic malaise, all those festering anxieties will come bubbling up five years from now when the next presidential election is held.


To understand how France’s political parties will respond to the outcome of this election, I reached out to Arthur Goldhammer, a Harvard professor who is a longtime commentator on French politics, writing about it regularly for the American Prospect, Democracy Journal, the Nation, and Foreign Policy.


I ask him what Macron’s surprisingly large victory means for France’s future, what becomes of the French left now that the Socialist Party has collapsed, and if he believes the far right is primed to succeed five years from now in the next presidential election.


Here’s what he told me.


Macron’s election is unprecedented.


It's probably too early to say how big a deal it is. It’s certainly unprecedented that someone who comes out of no party at all becomes president of France. Nothing like this has happened before. The closest analogy would be [Valéry] Giscard d'Estaing's election in 1974, and that was a fluke because there was a split in the Gaullist Party and one faction supported Giscard, who came out of a centrist party. But it was already a party, and Giscard had considerable experience.


But this is a novelty; nothing like it has ever happened. At the same time, both major parties are in disarray in the wake of this election, so that's probably the biggest thing to note about the change in the political landscape. Their candidates were eliminated in the first round, and that leaves them scrambling to try to come up with a strategy to make up for lost ground in the legislative elections.


Follow the link to see the source article published by Vox May 9, 2017.



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