French elections: Macron-Le Pen war of world views is still being fought
Emmanuel Macron is a political upstart. Next month’s assembly elections will determine whether he will have a functional majority to actually pass the kind of reforms he has professed and which France’s elitist polity and sclerotic economy neededitorials Updated: May 08, 2017 21:58 IST
There will relief in Paris and in most capitals of the world, New Delhi included, that the independent centrist candidate, Emmanuel Macron, has decisively defeated the nationalist Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections.
The elections were unusual in that the final round was minus any candidate from the mainstream Left and Right parties. However, Mr Macron’s mish-mash of free-market reforms and liberal social values is well within the French political mainstream. He was also strongly in favour of the European Union (EU), the Western Alliance and the euro — none of which found favour with Ms Le Pen and her National Front.
New Delhi, like most of governments in the world, will take comfort in an election for a global status quo at a time when there is already a surfeit of instability. A Le Pen victory could well have spelt the end of the EU and proven highly disruptive to what is one of India’s largest trade and investment partners. The other silver lining is the sense that the anti-immigrant wave that had dominated the western countries seems to have begun to ebb. After the parochialism of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s shock victory in the United States presidential elections, anti-immigrant and anti-globalisation parties have been coming a cropper in Europe. They were defeated in Austria, then the Netherlands and now France.
However, it should be clear that Mr Macron’s election is not the end of the story. The French president is a political upstart. He is the youngest president in French history and leader of a party that has never had the chance to even win a legislative seat. Next month’s assembly elections will determine whether he will have a functional majority to actually pass the kind of reforms he has professed and which France’s elitist polity and sclerotic economy need.
The new French president cannot afford to fail.
The one consequence of the past few years of political upheaval in the West is that the main opposition party in many of these countries, France included, are these formerly marginal anti-immigrant and anti-trade parties. Ms Le Pen has been able to double her party’s vote. She will be looking at the quarter of the French electorate who declined to vote for either candidate, resulting in the lowest turnout in a presidential poll in 40 years. She is expected to disband the National Front and resurrect it in a new, softer version. She will then wait for Mr Macron to take a wrong step or otherwise disappoint. The French presidential verdict is a battlefield victory and an important one. But the war of worldviews that Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen represented is still being fought.
First Published: May 08, 2017 15:00 IST