Daily Mirron Editorial

On Sunday, May 7, Emmanuel Macron, a centrist young former banker, who had never held elected office, comfortably won the French presidential election; defeating Marine Le Pen of the National Front who campaigned on an anti EU, anti immigrant and pro-nationalist card. French voters rejected her far-right message and backed Macron’s call for centrist change.

The political newcomer campaigned on a promise to open up France’s economy, strengthen ties to the European Union and the need for strengthening the EU itself by bringing about reforms within that organisation.

With his victory Emmanuel Macron, the former banker turned presidential candidate appeared to have halted the tide of nationalism which appeared to be sweeping across the so-called democratic west from the UK to the US, to the member states of the EU.

“France once led its down-trodden and frustrated people to freedom via the ‘French Revolution’. Can Mr. Macron through his “neither left nor right” stance lead his people away from extremist positions”

Macron, who as mentioned had never held elected office, would be the youngest president in the 59-year-old history of France’s Fifth Republic.

The 2017 French presidential election held in two stages – April 23 and May 7, 2017- pitted Emmanuel Macron of ‘En Marche’ against Marine Le Pen of the ‘National Front’ (FN) in the second round of the ballot.

Cartoon googled and added by TWParesh Nath - The Khaleej Times, UAE - France moves ahead - English - France, Liberal France, USA, Trump, UK, Brexit, populism, nationalism, stalled progress, France moves

As no candidate won a majority in the first round on April 23 , the May 7 election turned into a run-off between the top two candidates. The results of the April 23 first round in the election meant that for the first time in modern French political history, both established parties were eliminated in the first round itself. The voters faced a choice of two radically different visions for the country’s future after Macron’s surprising win in the first round.

Macron, a first-time candidate and political independent, won over 23% in Sunday’s (April 23) election and National Front leader Le Pen received over 21% in the first round run-off. Hiss victory on May 7 sent a huge sigh of relief through the European Union, which Le Pen had threatened to leave. Her loss also showed that the populist wave that took Britain out of the European Union and saw Donald Trump enter the White House as President of the United States was now on the wane. President Trump’s intervention in days before French presidential election on behalf of Le Penn, possibly played a role in her defeat.

The US President is extremely unpopular in France. A ‘Pew’ poll found that 85% of French had ‘no confidence’ in his ability to handle world affairs and another found that 75% disliked him.

A fan of Le Penn’s anti-immigrant, anti-European Union, anti-Muslim stance; Trump just a few days before the French election in an interview with the AP said:… “She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

The election result proved that both Trump and Le Penn were way out of tune with the mood in France. What is unfortunate however is the fact, the poll showed that over 30% of the French people supported the unashamedly racist views and anti-immigrant stance of the National Front and its leader.

After Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., the French election was being watched world-wide as a test of how high the tide of right-wing nationalism would rise in Europe. The world literally and physically breathed a sigh of relief at Macron’s victory. Another Trump in the form of Le Penn in charge of yet another leading world power would not be good for the rest of the world… based on the little over 100-day stint of Trump as President of the US.

But Macron now has a tough road ahead of him. He needs to consolidate his position especially in the light of the fact that 30% or more French voters have been shown to support racist politics. To counter this, he needs to quickly follow-up with creative deeds which can act as the balm the French people need to face growing problems of unemployment, problems arising from fears of terrorism and an end to social antagonism.

France once led its down-trodden and frustrated people to freedom via the ‘French Revolution’. Can Mr. Macron through his “neither left nor right” stance lead his people away from extremist positions?

In short, the challenge facing Mr. Macron is to move from campaign slogans into governance. His success will depend on his ability to living up to his promises.