What just happened? We’ve said it before, but this has been the most astonishing French presidential election in the history of the Fifth Republic. For the first time, no candidate from either of the two main parties made it through to the second round. The campaign of the man initially tipped to win, François Fillon, imploded spectacularly under the weight of a series of scandals.
In literally the final hours of the race, somebody dumped nine gigabytes worth of emails and documents purportedly stolen from the Macron camp. Just before a campaign blackout mandated by French electoral law, the Macron campaign issued a statement arguing that fake documents had been mixed in with genuine ones (something seemingly corroborated by Wikileaks when they confirmed that several of the files had Cyrillic meta data).
Despite this last-minute intervention, the new (39-year-old) President of France is Emmanuel Macron, the youngest person in French history to assume the office of president. He leads a wildly successful political movement, En Marche!, but has yet to transform it fully into a political party (it’s still unclear whether he will be able to find the 577 candidates needed for the National Assembly elections in June).
Already, people are warning the Mr Macron will be a ‘lame duck’ president. If he fails to secure a majority in the upcoming legislative elections then he may be forced to pick a prime minister from a different party. It’s not impossible to imagine the pro-globalisation President Emmanuel Macron in ‘cohabitation’ with a government led by somebody from the far-left or far-right.
Such an unhappy political marriage is unlikely to happen, given that the National Assembly elections operate under the same two-round system as the presidential election, and so moderates will likely put aside their differences in order to block more radical candidates. Nevertheless, this has been such an extraordinary electoral season in France that nothing can be ruled out completely.
Macron has pledged sweeping reforms to the French economy in order to kickstart the economy and bring down eye-wateringly high unemployment figures. However, if he’s unable to command a majority then he will need to convince moderate centre-right and centre-left MPs to work with him under the banner of a presidential majority. Mr Macron’s honeymoon period could be very brief indeed.
Then there is Madame Le Pen. Roughly 11 million voters chose to support her, which is twice the number that voted for her father in 2002. Le Pen has vowed to radically reform the Front National ahead of the June elections, and would like her party to be viewed as the new opposition in French politics. The anger and frustration that propelled her into the second round of the presidential election is not going to vanish overnight.
Will Emmanuel Macron bring radical change to France? What does his victory mean for Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!