Editorial

The task ahead for Mr Macron

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

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After a hard-fought campaign, the extremely tough job of governing France will begin on Sunday for new President Emmanuel Macron after he takes the oath of office.Readers who were keeping abreast of the French presidential election will know that Mr Macron, a centrist, defeated the far-right candidate Ms Marine Le Pen 66.1 per cent to 33.9 per cent.

His convincing victory is a clear statement that the majority of the French people do not share the view espoused by Ms Le Pen and other ultra-rightists that France should leave the European Union (EU). It was also a rejection by the majority of her anti-immigrant and anti-globalisation platform.

However, President-elect Macron cannot ignore the fact that an estimated 11 million French nationals voted for Ms Le Pen. He, therefore, has to try his best to convince them that his vision for France is better than his opponent's.

Yesterday, he made a good start in that regard, saying that he has heard “the rage, anxiety and doubt” expressed by many voters. As such, he has vowed to use his five-year term in office to combat “the forces of division that undermine France”.

But, as we said, Mr Macron's job will be extremely difficult mostly because, in order to pursue his political agenda, he will need a majority in the Parliament, where his new political party — En Marche!, formed in April 2016 — does not have a presence.

So, Mr Macron will have to remain in campaign mode for the next few weeks as parliamentary elections are due in June. And, if his party does not benefit from the wave of support that took him to the presidency, Mr Macron will likely be forced to form a coalition.

If he is forced down that road, he may experience a bumpy ride in trying to keep one of his main campaign promises, that of cutting 120,000 public sector jobs. Making that type of decision is something that politicians try their best to avoid, as they see each individual as a potential voter for them.

For the time being, though, the wider EU leadership is relieved at the outcome of the French vote.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is reported to have tweeted, “Happy that the French chose a European future,” while Ms Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said Mr Macron “carries the hopes of millions of French people, and of many people in Germany and the whole of Europe”.

The weight of that responsibility will likely increase if Ms Le Pen and her National Front party — who have painted the presidential election outcome as a division between “patriots and globalists” — are able to renew themselves and make gains in the parliamentary elections next month.

However, based on what we have read of Mr Macron so far, he is a quick learner and has an ability to survive tough situations. Indeed, Mr Alain Minc, described as a mentor and close associate who advised Mr Macron on his political career, told the BBC in an interview: “He's a cat — you throw him through the window and he manages to fall on his feet.”

Only time will tell whether Mr Macron can successfully navigate the choppy waters in which France now finds itself.

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