May 12, 2017    4 minute read

Macron: a Young Leader with a Heavy Crown

A Great Burden    May 12, 2017    4 minute read

Macron: a Young Leader with a Heavy Crown

On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen, a far more established political figure, by 66.1% to 33.9% of the votes. 

The 39-year-old Macron will be the youngest leader of France since the Napoleonic era. He must heal the divisions within the country, as reflected in the first round election results that showed votes for both candidates almost equally divided (8.53 million for Macron versus 7.66 million for Le Pen).

This divergence represents two main streams of views: those coming from the affluent, the highly-educated and those from the poor and less privileged. Therefore, it is reasonable to conjecture that the tasks of running France in 2017 seem heavy.  One wonders, naturally, what made Macron the ideal candidate throughout this election campaign? What does his victory mean for the EU? Above all, what exactly are the challenges that France is going to deal with?

A Globally Popular Liberal

Macron is a liberal as well as a centrist. Under the banner of ‘En Marche!’ (‘Forward!’), he associated himself with a more positive, progressive political image. By contrast, Le Pen is typically panned for being in favour of a so-called Frexit, for her anti-immigration policy and her far-right views.

One of Macron’s victory comments was: ‘I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that some of you have expressed… For the five years ahead, my responsibility is to appease fears’. This strand of positive energy certainly motivates people to place their faith in him.

The EU will be relieved to see Macron’s victory, as this will have blocked the possibility of Le Pen’s Frexit and its subsequent market volatility on the euro. Macron’s pro-EU strategy and promise to reform French politics will also ensure greater corporation and responsibilities within the EU and potentially strengthen the common fiscal policy.

Evidently, Macron’s election has far-reaching implications. The former US president, Barack Obama, endorsed Macron’s candidacy on the 4th of May. The move put France under the global spotlight. More importantly, it demonstrated the worldwide significance of elections within the EU. 

Macron’s Economic Acumen

The fact that Macron had served as France’s economic minister means he has greater experience and knowledge about the country’s economy than his opponents. Coupled with his previous role at Rothschild, the young leader is widely expected to understand how best to tackle the risks facing France and develop a strong and sustainable economy.

Once the economy has picked up its momentum, Macron can concentrate on implementing a well-regulated institutional framework along with social and welfare investments.

Challenges ahead

The immediate challenge for Macron is to constitute a government within a short time frame. So far, he does not have a single seat in the French parliament. Therefore, winning over legislative support tops his list of priorities.

Furthermore, Macron must slash the French unemployment rate from 10% down to 7%, maintain the national deficit target level and cut 120,000 state-related jobs. More attention needs to be given to labour market reform with regards to tax reduction and labour laws to help create a more business-friendly France.

With the increasing number of terror incidents on French soil, the awareness of national security has been brought to the forefront. Macron has pledged to tighten border checks and increase national defence spending. 

Macron’s grand vision also includes re-shaping the Franco-German relationship and fundamental reform of EU following Brexit and recent refugee problems. Moreover, he aims to present a ‘true budget’ to the EU, which leads to many doubts cast on the viability of his ambition. Vincenzo Scarpetta, an analyst at Open Europe, noted:

“Reforming the EU looks good on paper but Macron’s ideas are bold: he wants a budget for the eurozone and a eurozone minister. Is that really realistic, when it would require treaty changes?”

A Heavy Crown

The focus might be on France now, but the German and Italian elections are imminent. As the ‘heart’ of the EU and the EU’s the biggest budget contributor, Germany will inevitably become the focal point this September, as it is crucial to the overall economic, political and institutional stability of the EU.

Nevertheless, the challenges for France’s future are momentous, though certainly not impossible. Given that he must prove himself to the French people and convince the world of his grand vision, Macron indeed wears a heavy crown. 

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