In a landslide victory this weekend, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election by a vote of 66.06%, progressing his pro-business centrist vision for France and offering stability to the EU. As the youngest president in France’s history and one without previous elected experience, Macron faces an uphill battle in unifying his constituents, a percentage of whom ultimately voted “for” or “against” his opponent, Marine Le Pen.
Perspective: Winds of Change
Aurélie Marchand – Head of Public Affairs, Paris
On May 7th, the country waited with bated breath: would France yield to its nationalist tendencies or respond to the call of European unity? By 8pm, the Front National was beaten back, Emmanuel Macron was announced President, anchoring his mandate in a 66% win. At 11pm, the European Anthem was blaring at the Louvre as the President-to-be made his way to his podium, both venue and hymn strong symbols of French and European pride. A clear signal to our Union partners : they could, for now, breathe a sigh of relief.
The 2017 Presidential Election mark a series of shifts in French politics with continuity on the continental stage and disruption at the national level. At 39, the President-Elect will be the youngest to ever take office, and his spot at the Elysée Palace will be the only seat he has ever won in an election. Record lows in voter turn-out (74,6%) and soaring highs of Null/Blank votes (11,5%) speak to a surge of the “Third Option” at the run-off, a “neither him, nor her” sentiment that erodes the legitimacy of the presidential mandate. In terms of geography, the electoral map now pits urban against rural voters, a challenge for Emmanuel Macron whose “très parisien” image is ample leverage for the opposition.
And the opposition also presents a new threat: with both mainstream parties left behind, the young En Marche must deal with the Far-Right (Marine Le Pen) and Far-Left (Jean-Luc Mélenchon) as their direct opponents. A double threat that has gained a lot of ground during the election and had the most to gain from the downfall of Les Républicains and the Parti Socialiste.
As Macron puts it, his presidency is faced with an “Immense Task”, dealing with populist peril and passing muster with his late stage allies. The first hurdle comes when Macron announces the identity of his Prime Minister next Sunday, the all-important head of government whose qualifications and views will lend credence to Macron’s ability as a centrist president. The naming of ministers will also be a test on his capacity to fulfill his promises; namely, that of an inclusive and fresh government where corporate talents may be called to serve.
Come June 11th, France will again have to gird its loins, this time for the legislative elections. Not ones to slink away, the mainstream parties are back on the campaign trail, hoping to force Macron’s En Marche in a cohabitation system where the executive and legislative branches are held by different parties.
A third round to the May election, some will say. In the meantime, France can catch its breath…