Independent centrist, Emmanuel Macron, has just been elected the 25th president of France having beaten the far-right National Party’s Marine Le Pen in the final round of the election. At 39, he is the youngest ever to serve his country in that capacity since Napoleon Bonaparte. He has, however, reassured his compatriots that “I will not disappoint you.” He believes that if they join him in the task of turning a new page in French history, the country may yet be a force to reckon with not just in Europe but globally. He will replace the outgoing President Francois Hollande.
Macron, an independent centrist with strong support for a greater European Union, his win signals a victory for pro-Europeans. In his maiden speech, he launched an appeal as well as a promise to protect the country’s illustrious cultural past and pointed out that France will be on the front line in the fight against terrorism that has inflicted pain and injury on the land. This was just as he pledged to prioritise improving the morality of the public service and ensuring a vital democracy.
Along this line, the new president listed the difficulties that had debilitated France over time, highlighting economic troubles, social fracturing and moral weakening among the elements that he intends to redress. The centrist politician vowed to “protect the republic” and asserted that he respected the views of his opponents despite his disagreements with them and added that he would govern in such a manner that would ensure that his people, French men and women of the age of voting, will never consider or have a reason to want to vote for extreme candidates again, a reminder of the hard battle he fought against his populist opponent Marine Le Pen.
Analysts note that his victory in the presidential polls will be meaningful to the extent that he secures a working majority in the parliament in an election that will take place on June 11 and 18 to elect the country’s 577 member legislative house. As an independent, his En Marche movement currently has no parliamentary seats, and without parliamentary backing Macron will be unable to enact his reform proposals.
His fresh perspectives to politics brought France’s traditional ruling parties to their knees in the first round. Regardless, Macron is largely considered a continuation of mainstream politics in the land of Charles De Gaulle.
Macron promises major reforms in labour and taxation to boost the country’s growth prospects, as well as a 50 billion euro ($54.7 billion) stimulus package; however, his stance on fundamental issues such as EU membership and currency remains firmly with the status quo.
With employment, immigration and continued terrorist threats at the top of people’s concerns, Macron will have a fight on his hands to win over both his fellow politicians and citizens of this deeply divided nation during his five-year term.
Expectedly, Europe was on edge, filled with trepidation as the electoral process progressed in France. The victory of Macron, therefore, was a satisfying breathe of collective sigh of relief as that country’s commitment to the European project ultimately remained upheld.
Also the EU had its fair share of anxiety which was triggered by the rhetoric of Marine Le Pen whose victory would have caused the continental body to face the prospect of significant overhauls, a referendum on the membership of one of its founding members, and the potential collapse of its currency union. All that eased as Macron said that he was dedicated to an outward-looking France, including maintaining its future within the EU.
Europe will now turn its focus to Germany’s Federal election in September and on-going Brexit negotiations. With a pro-European French president now in place, the EU will have a strengthened hand as talks with Britain develop.
What are the lessons for Nigeria from the outcome of the elections in France? To most of us, it was a demonstration of the purity and integrity of the ballot box. First, Francois Hollande willingly decided not to be part of the election even though he was constitutionally qualified to contest. Second, the outcome of the election, with a 39 year old, as winner is instructive just as the stoic calmness that Le Pen displayed when it became obvious that it was all over for her this time round. Jubilations in the streets of Paris and elsewhere created a carnival like scenario that once more exposed the beauty of democracy as a system of government.