This past Sunday, Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate of the new political party, En Marche! (Onward!), defeated Marine Le Pen of the far-right party, National Front. Trouncing Le Pen in the final round of voting, receiving a little over 66% of the vote, Macron promised in his victory speech that he will govern in a way in which voters will never “have [a] reason again to go for extremes.” The main focus for voters this election was France’s economy and the threat of Islamic terrorism. Significantly, nearly 20% of voters selected a communist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in the first round of voting; in addition to a third of the electorate who voted for Le Pen, who promised to aggressively combat globalization and Islamic terrorism. Macron faces the difficult task of stimulating the economy, and also keeping his country safe.
France has been plagued by Islamic terrorism for the last several years, climaxing with the 2015 Paris Attacks, which killed 130 people. The current president, Francois Hollande, has taken significant measures to combat terrorism, such as temporarily closing boarders and deploying the military on city streets. However, the French people want more action, including limits on legal immigration and a decrease in the refugee program. Despite positioning himself as an opposite to Le Pen, Macron has still staked out an aggressive position on these issues. In an appeal to Le Pen voters, Macron exemplified the importance of combating radical Islamists, saying in his victory speech “It is our civilization that is at stake, our way of life.” To provide more resources to combat emerging threats, Macron has promised to hire 10,000 more police officers. However, he will continue to accept refugees, but asylum seekers would be returned to their home country (many Islamic terrorists had been living in France on asylum visas). With the decision to maintain the refugee policy, expect Macron to maintain a tough rhetoric and further increase defense appropriations to appease both the far-right and an increasingly concerned electorate.
Macron, a former investment banker and finance minister ran on a plan that promises to respect welfare programs, while also instituting domestic cuts paired with a stimulus plan. He plans to pay for his 50 billion euro stimulus plan, by cutting 60 billion euros from the budget. Tax cuts, including the drop of the corporate tax rate to 25%, and tax deductions for self-employed entrepreneurs is also being promoted by Macron. Ultimately, some of the more comprehensive reforms that Macron has in the past endorsed might be unfeasible, such as the repeal of France’s 35 hour work week. While businesses have implored for a repeal of the 35 hour law, unions have pushed back, making it politically difficult to alter the law. Ultimately, Macron will most likely settle for a change where employers can more easily have employees work overtime. Macron will be attempting the balancing act of making France more business friendly, while maintaining expensive welfare benefits and inefficient labor laws.
The revitalization of the French economy is pivotal to not only decreasing France’s high unemployment (19%), but also for the strength of the Euro and the entire European Union. Therefore, Macron will continue to try to usher in changes to the Eurozone, such as a common Eurozone budget. The budget would provide a boost to weaker countries, helping the Euro’s strength; but Germany might be reticent to support such a budget, considering they would be providing significant capital. Thus, Macron needs to be able to effectively jump start France’s economy or else he will face criticism from populists at home and will struggle internationally to persuade Germany to agree to reforms of the Eurozone.
Just 39 years old, Macron is novice politician and not a member of either of the two traditional political parties, the Republicans and the Socialist. He will be governing with a far less ideological agenda, but will certainly face attacks from both the right and the left. His task of changing France and strengthening the Eurozone will be difficult, but a renewed France is attainable. Already, Macron has released a video and statement making it known that entrepreneurs and scientists will be welcomed and supported in France. Now, he has to succeed on his campaign promises, or at the end of his term in 5 years, Europe will look very different. Emmanuel Macron will assume the Presidency on May 14, 2017.