Macron holds the middle ground in France

Only the second president to win two terms in 20 years after Jacques Chirac, Macron has promised to be a ‘president for all’

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Emmanuel Macron and first lady Brigitte Macron. — AFP
Emmanuel Macron and first lady Brigitte Macron. — AFP

Published: Mon 25 Apr 2022, 11:24 PM

Emmanuel Macron’s brand of centrism prevailed in the French presidential elections that many experts feared would swing to the far-right after gains by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in the run-up to the polls. Only the second president to win two terms in 20 years after Jacques Chirac, Macron has promised to be a ‘president for all’ which could present some stability for France and Europe after a tumultuous start to the year following the Ukraine crisis.

Macron’s vision of unity was more acceptable to the electorate. This enabled him to pull off what could be termed a landmark victory in some quarters. The president’s margin of victory was higher than expected but what’s interesting is that the far-right has their highest vote share in history, which is concerning and an indicator that the populists have indeed made impressive gains that could show up in another five years when the next presidential elections are held.

Le Pen, the National Rally leader, told her supporters after the loss that they had reached “new heights”, but the truth is she failed the third time in her bid for power. Le Pen had once praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies, which was seen as a red flag by many in the electorate. The 53-year-old struggled to shake off the Kremlin-crony tag despite her best efforts to appear neutral on the issue of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. She had taken a hard line against immigration and was also opposed to the veil for Muslim women. The electorate’s verdict: second place. Her defeat should be seen as a victory for the moderates, and not necessarily the liberals or those on the far left who represent the other extreme of the divide.

The voter has spoken, and the message is clear: they want a firm hand to guide France’s destiny. Macron’s vision for the country and its place in the world that has seen much turmoil, is the best fit under the circumstances. Politically, the French president appears only marginally stronger for battles ahead, including the parliamentary elections.

His first agenda ahead of the polls in June would be to topple the PM. The president is keen on a female prime minister to replace serving Prime Minister Jean Castex who has broken ranks with him. Castex said France was going through a considerable crisis involving “many divisions and a lack of understanding”. Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne is likely to succeed him for speaking out against the presidency. So what does an extended Macron presidency mean for the Fifth Republic? Critics fear Macron could turn more autocratic, which is unlikely in the short term with parliamentary elections on the horizon. For now, it’s status quo in France. A steady and able moderate as president is better than a wild swing to the right for the country and Europe.

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