Finally, France has denied staunch nationalism and has kept its faith over liberalism. Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate and leader of the newbie party, En Marche, defeated the far right’s Marine Le Pen, winning 66.06% of the vote to her 33.94%. Acknowledging his victory, Macron told supporters he wanted to ensure Le Pen’s voters that they “no longer have a reason to vote for an extremist position”.
Macron was elected on a passionately pro-European Union (EU) platform, while Le Pen, by contrast, threatened to pull out of the single currency and hold an in/out referendum on France’s membership of the EU. The French population did not even know a year before that the liberal-centralist Macron would run for the Presidential election. His party was founded only in April 2016. He has become the youngest leader of France after Napoleon, at the age of just 39.
There was definitely a forecast which said that Macron will win but according to the possible results he will pass all the forecasted results and win the election with a larger margin. At the end of the first phase the difference between Macron and Le Pen was pretty less but with the support from the Republicans and the Socialists with him, it was understood long back that Macron was going to be the new President.
May 7, 2017, at 8.30 pm (French time) when the voting closed, Macron’s win became evident. Then again, a huge chunk of voters did not turn up at all and that number is also a daunting 42 lakhs. This is the first time after 1969 that the voting percentage has gone down drastically. After the publication of possible results, Macron said that he is confident that the country will move in the right direction, and they have to work with self-confidence. Le Pen has congratulated Macron and said that the French population has voted in favour of stability but the rightists have not lost completely.
Most of those running the EU were breathing a sigh of relief, given Le Pen’s policies and last year’s Brexit vote. The European Commission Chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, tweeted, “Happy that the French chose a European future.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted her congratulations, saying Macron’s win was a “victory for a strong united Europe”. The US President Donald Trump, who had previously praised Le Pen, tweeted his congratulations to Macron for the “big win” and said he looked forward to working with him.
During the time of campaign, it did not seem that the win for the liberals would be this easy. Especially at the end of the campaign, Macron’s email was hacked and different information including the candidate’s foreign bank accounts were shown to the general population of the country. There was so much information that the population did not get a chance to find out which one was correct and which one was false. So, what the population was thinking about the email scandal was not clear and that increased the fear in the Macron camp.
Another important aspect of the vote was the absence of the socialists and the republicans in the final stage. Anti-immigration supporter Le Pen started the ‘French first’ campaign like Donald Trump. If she had won, then there might have been another referendum against the EU. On the other hand, Macron is a strong supporter of good relations with the EU. That’s why Britain and Germany had a keen interest in this French election. There is a fear that the upcoming elections in these countries might be impacted by the results of the French election.
Economic policy of Macron
In French, ‘marché’ means “market” and ‘En Marche’ means “working”. It is hoped that Macron, a technocrat and a former investment banker, will move the French economy to a better path of business and investment. Even during the initial time of Francois Hollande, Macron as the economy minister, oversaw a change in direction over the past three years, indicating a more pro-business approach. The euro reaching a six-month high against the dollar was an evident reaction by the market to the victory of the pro-EU candidate.
Le Pen had campaigned for France to leave the Euro and proposed a referendum in which French voters would have an opportunity to vote to leave the EU. If Marine Le Pen had done better it might have shaken up the EU. With the pro-EU Macron coming in, it will probably keep the tone of negotiations very tough. Macron wants France to stay in the Eurozone, but reform it. In his manifesto, he wanted a common Eurozone budget and a Eurozone finance minister. Although he is seen as something of a populist, Macron is really a centrist and his views are pretty main-stream. He talks about fiscal stimulus, a plan for a 50 billion euro
investment fund, and cutting corporate tax.
Given his pro-EU stance, one could see a revival of the France-Germany axis and more talk of integration. He will ask Berlin to invest and spend more to help Germany’s domestic economy, which, it is hoped, will help French
exporters and manufacturers in other European countries. But all this can only happen with Germany’s backing. There will be no decisions until after German’s elections later this year, so for now he can only focus on domestic policy.
While France heaves a sigh of relief, it’s important to remember that Macron isn’t just another Justin Trudeau or Barack Obama with a continental flavour. He’s indeed the much-needed dyke to prevent the rising surge of right-wing tidal waves sweeping not just Europe but the whole world. Emmanuel Macron has won the presidency. He now needs to win over the French people. Many of those who voted for him did so to stop Marine Le Pen. They remain to be convinced by his political programme, unlike Brussels, which is delighted.
The EU leaders believe Marine Le Pen’s defeat is a strong sign that Eurosceptic nationalism is now subsiding. But while far right populists have been defeated in Austria, the Netherlands and France, the barbed issues that drove voters to them - unemployment, immigration and fear of globalisation - remain to be resolved.