‘Centrist’ Victory in France Calms Nerves, Yet Solutions to Core Problems Seem Distant

COMMENTARY Europe

‘Centrist’ Victory in France Calms Nerves, Yet Solutions to Core Problems Seem Distant

May 8th, 2017 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Gonzalez

Senior Fellow

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron received swift congratulations from European leaders Sunday after roundly defeating Marine Le Pen. CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA/Newscom

Key Takeaways

Macron took 66 percent of the vote, defeating Marine Le Pen, who took about 34 percent, according to final results.

Like Obama did in 2008, Macron promises a fundamental transformation.

It’s highly unlikely that Paris and Washington will not be able to work together in many of the world’s toughest security hot spots.

Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker running for office for the first time in his life, won elections Sunday in a landslide and will soon become the next president of France.

It will be a stretch, however, to say that it was his globalist ideas that carried the day.

Macron took 66 percent of the vote, defeating Marine Le Pen, who took about 34 percent, according to final results.

Macron, a former economic minister for the current socialist president, Francois Hollande, does not identify with a party, but has formed a movement called En Marche!, which loosely translates as “Let’s Go.”

Le Pen belongs to the far-right National Front, which wants to end immigration, close France’s national borders, and improve relations with Russian strongman, President Vladimir Putin.

Le Pen’s party has received loans from Russia. Late Friday, a Russian outfit hacked Macron’s group emails and made them public.

Macron, who last week received the official endorsement of former U.S. President Barack Obama—who raised eyebrows by issuing a supportive video—may find it hard at first to work with President Donald Trump.

France, however, is a NATO ally, the world’s fifth largest economy, and a nuclear power with a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. It’s highly unlikely that Paris and Washington will not be able to work together in many of the world’s toughest security hot spots, such as Africa.

Indeed, Trump tweeted Sunday:

Macron’s victory was greeted instantly by leaders throughout Europe, who breathed a sigh of relief that Le Pen had not been elected.

Under the Fifth Republic system put in place by Gen. Charles de Gaulle in 1958, the French presidency is very powerful. But Macron will have to cobble together some sort of working left-right coalition with the legislature after parliamentary elections take place on June 11 and 18.

Macron will also have to deal with the impression that “Macron didn’t win, Le Pen lost,” as leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon put it Sunday.

For starters, turnout at 75 percent was the lowest in a French presidential election for over half a century. Over four million of those who voted cast a blank ballot.

In this hyper-political nation, clearly there was no passion for either Macron or his rival, Le Pen, in Sunday’s runoff.

There’s also the fact that Le Pen managed to win 35 percent of the vote despite being weighed down by her party’s ugly past, as well as her own. Her share of the vote was double what her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002 when he ran against former President Jacques Chirac.

She won over a third of the vote, even though the word “toxic” was so associated with her in the media that last month, she launched an attack on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, telling the BBC that it was her who was “toxic.”

LePenConcession

National Front candidate Marine Le Pen delivered a concession speech to her supporters Sunday after being defeated by Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: Marechal Aurore/Sipa USA/Newscom)

Had Le Pen been a normal candidate, without her party’s noxious mix of anti-Semitism, racism, and Putinism, her message of national identity, assimilation, traditional family, and solidarity with those who hail from “la France Profonde(the France of Catholic mysticism and village life) would have performed much better.

Le Pen was such an imperfect vessel for questions that have seized the world’s imagination—as evidenced in recent elections in the U.S. and the United Kingdom—that last week, she had to plagiarize, almost word for word, a speech on assimilation and identity that a candidate who lost in the first round of the elections delivered in April.

Macron is a self-styled centrist, and in the French context that may be true (the left’s candidate vowed to impose a 100 percent tax on incomes above 400,000 euros).

But Macron is without question the champion of multiculturalism, environmentalism, alternative family arrangements, transnational governance—especially at the European Union level—and open borders.

Following a terrorist attack in Paris last month, Macron wondered on French radio whether terrorism is a new normal to which the French must become accustomed. “This threat, this imponderable problem,” Macron said, “is part of our daily lives for the years to come.”

He adopts the same approach to the large movement of people that Europe has experienced over the past five years. “We have entered a world of great migrations, and we will have more and more of it,” he said at a debate.

“In the coming decades, we will have migrations from geopolitical conflicts that will continue to play, and we will have climate migrations because the planet is in a state of deep imbalance,” he said. “France will not be able to stem it.”

He took a similar line on multiculturalism. He said at a rally in Lyon that “there is not a French culture. There is a culture in France, and it is diverse. It is multiple.”

Like Obama did in 2008, Macron promises a fundamental transformation. “I am for a progressive world. I do not propose to reform France. I propose to transform it at its deepest level,” the English-speaking Macron told The New York Times in an interview last month.

Given Sunday’s outcome, he will soon have his work cut out for him.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

More on This Issue