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Youngest French President – A glimmer of unlikely hope or a repackaged continuum of status quo.?


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Source: CBS
Source: CBS


Emmanuel Macron, at 39, has become the youngest president of France and the second youngest head-of-state after Napoleon Bonaparte. The French presidential elections were closely watched the world over, and especially in the western world, because of newly ascendant xenophobic, ultra-nationalist and protectionist sentiments that threaten to disrupt and overhaul the post-war liberal consensus of Europe and reconfigure the social, cultural and economic outlook.

In this backdrop, the victory of liberal and centrist Emmanuel Macron in the French elections is seen a big sigh of relief. But the liberal sections should not rest on their laurels in being jubilant about this victory and take it as an unambiguous endorsement of globalization, austerity measures and pro-corporate lobbies.

The 2017 elections witnessed the largest abstention in French elections since 1969 – 16.2 million people either abstained from voting or left the ballot blank. This signifies the general disillusionment from the electoral process and a legitimacy crisis for democracy itself. Apart of this nearly one-third of the electorate voted for the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. This is almost double the vote share of her party from the 2002 elections. So any hopes that the far-right has been utterly defeated and the liberals have taken back control, is highly misplaced. The populist backlash against the EU institutions and the corporate lobby is far from over, and Front National has firmly consolidated its place.  

While it is definitely good for Europe that the juggernaut of far-right Front National has been derailed, first in Austria then in Netherlands and now in France. But make no mistake, the right wing populist surge is from over. And just an election defeat wouldn’t diminish the assiduously cultivated support base of Marine Le Pen who has managed to mainstream a hitherto fringe party with a history of racism, anti semetism and Nazi apologia.

And amongst the many reasons responsible for the rise of protectionism and populist far-right in Europe, economic issues and disgruntlement against the technocratic-bureaucratic elite of EU are still there. More they will be brushed under the carpet, the more they will re-appear, sooner or later.

Approximately half of the working class in France, especially in the decrepit industrial towns of the north, voted for Marine Le Pen. Former supporters of PCF( French Communist Party ) in the neglected industrial heartlands gravitated towards Front National.

At the root of the conflict between globalists and protectionists, is economic anxiety, rising inequality, closing factories and dwindling wages. This is a crucial factor that has provided philip to the populist right all across Europe — From Golden Dawn to Five Star Movement to Pegida Front National.

Macron, an independent, trounced the far-right as well as the mainstream centre-right, centre-left and the left.

A former investment banker at Rothschilds and a former civil servant, Macron is seen as a protégé of outgoing president Francois Hollande. Macrons Enmarche, a grassroots movement, and his campaigning were seen as a powerful alternative to the vitriolic, acerbic, and hateful rallies of Le Pen. Macron infused optimism and a youthful vigor in his electoral campaign.

Born and raised in a provincial town named Amines, and educated at a Jesuit school there till he was 16, Mr. Macron was a versatile, precocious and Intellectually gifted teenager.

His love story is both highly unconventional and seems straight out of a fantasy romance novel. Mr. Macron dated his drama teacher, Ms. Briggite Theraoux when he was 16 years old and vowed to marry her. Briggite divorced her husband and tied the nuptial knot with Mr. Macron in 2007. She is 24 years elder to Emmanuel Macron.  

He resigned as the Minister of Economy in 2016 over his failure to pass pro-corporate reforms, amidst strong protests all across France by the trade unions, and to prepare for the presidency. Macrons 3-year stint in the Socialist Party ended in 2009.

Now, definitely Macron is a liberal, more so in socio-cultural policies. He is pro globalisation, pro immigration, pro LGBT, a constitutionalist and pro individual rights and freedoms.

But I find it amusing when he is called a Left-liberal by his fawning admirers. There is nothing Left about Macron. He is against the 35 hour work week in France and questions the utility of wealth tax. His economic program includes slashing corporate tax, weakening unions, disinvestment of the public sector, layoffs and making it making it easier for companies to fire employees.

Macron is Ronald Reagan minus social conservatism. And Tony Blair who carried forward the pro-corporate legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Macron himself is a big admirer of Blair and is more likely to be like old wine in a new bottle as far as economic policies are concerned.


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