Macron's challenge now is to govern France
The new president faces a divided country and a complicated political landscape
13 May, 2017
The surprisingly large electoral victory of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron cannot guarantee him care-free governing of the country. France is at a crossroads. The direction it takes under the inexperienced politician who was elected for not belonging to the old "system" parties, will have a massive bearing not only on the future of the nation, but also on the future of the EU. Failure to fully embrace the reform agenda inside France and in the crisis-shaken Union could soon damage Macron’s popularity.
Although Macron defeated far-right populist Marine Le Pen, who leads the National Front party, by a whopping 33 points, France remains a deeply divided country. Anxieties persist over immigration, terrorism, globalisation, and chronic unemployment. And there is widespread disillusionment with the political establishment on both the left and the right. France’s two major political parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, are in tatters.
Macron has promised to strengthen France’s ties to Europe, simplify the tax system, overhaul the labour market, and scale back needless regulations. But without a clear governing coalition, he will face a number of obstacles. If he is unable to lift France out of its economic malaise, all those festering anxieties will come bubbling up over the next years.
To do that, he must build a parliamentary majority that supports his election pledges in June legislative elections, when France’s two established parties will put their huge machines to work. Securing a majority for his fledgling movement, En Marche! (just renamed La Republique en Marche), in the National Assembly will be far from straightforward. Macron may well be forced to reach out to sympathetic socialists and centre-right republicans to obtain a working majority in the lower chamber. But the case of socialist ex-prime minister Manuel Valls, who is facing humiliation after he was told he did not fit the "criteria" to run for parliament for French President-elect Emmanuel Macron's new party, is telling. In a blow to the reformist Valls, the Macron camp said its job was not to "recycle" politicians who feared losing their posts but to renew France's political landscape.
Current polls show Macron’s party winning between 249-286 seats in the lower house, which would be enough to make it the largest party in France but not enough to claim a majority in the 577 seat assembly. To win that many seats, Macron will have to run a candidate in every district – and he will have to do this with an organisation that has never run a legislative campaign before.
Macron’s plans for his presidency rest almost entirely on his plans for economic reform, which are being compared to a revolution France needs in order to keep its place among the leading economies. Key initiatives in the weeks to come will include a reform of the labour code designed to make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers and simplification of the regulations affecting small businesses. Macron has promised to shrink the number of state employees and establish stronger ethics rules for the public sector.