Elections over, Macron must now deliver
New French president has led a remarkable movement that has given him a strong mandate to govern; his job now is to stand firm on his policies
Expectations could not be higher for French President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist Republic on the Move party. Elections have given them the biggest mandate to govern since the founding of the French Fifth Republic in 1958, clearing the way for far-reaching reforms. Those worried about the fate of the European Union, free trade and globalisation, and the state of democracy have been given cause for optimism. There are certain to be protests by those against the idea of change, but the new leader has to persevere so that his nation, Europe and the world can have a hope of moving forward.
The political landscape has been shaken. The Socialist and conservative parties, which alternated in power for decades, have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves and forced to rethink their strategies. The typical age of a member of parliament before the election was between 60 and 70; those from the Republic on the Move who won seats average just 43 and Macron is a mere 39, making him the youngest-ever French president. Similarly ground-breaking is that half of those elected from the party are women.
France is still dazed by the speed of Macron’s political revolution. His party did not exist 14 months ago, nor was there any sign of his ambitions. But in a matter of weeks, his party has swept from not being represented in parliament to having a strong majority. Like their leader, half of those elected had not before faced voters.
But despite inexperience, Macron is the right person at the right time. The same popular discontent with traditional politicians that swept Donald Trump to the US presidency is behind his success. But he differs from the isolationist American by representing neither the left nor right of the political spectrum; his policies are taken from both sides. They will be good for France and through the country’s economic power and influence, the EU. He is open to trade and immigration and seeks job creation and prosperity through freeing up markets and protection of French ways through wise governance.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 25, 2017
Macron and the newly elected lawmakers have much to learn and voters are impatient for results. A low voter turnout in the parliamentary elections means that not all of the French support their policies. Nor are unions going to easily give in to their tough approach to reducing high unemployment rates; protests and strikes are a given. Yet Macron has been handed a firm mandate to rule and will have little difficulty getting proposals like labour market liberalisation and public spending cuts through parliament. He has to repeatedly convince of the benefits of reform and why France needs them. As when he shook Trump’s hand at the recent Nato meeting in Brussels, he has to remain firm.