April 26, 2022

French Election

Emmanuel Macron comfortably defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday, heading off a political earthquake for Europe but acknowledging dissatisfaction with his first term and saying he would seek to make amends.” Reuters

Many on both sides argue that despite Macron’s victory centrists in France should be worried about the future:

“Macron’s margin in the second round was larger than polling suggested but barely more than half his margin five years ago. Some 40% of this margin came from metro Paris, which is only one-sixth of the country and where he finished behind the leftist candidate in the first round…

“The powers that be may heave a sigh of relief over Macron’s reelection, but a look at the numbers suggests that they should feel a sense of discomfort. With Angela Merkel’s longstanding centrist government in Germany utterly repudiated, and the weakness of the underpinnings of Macron’s version of centrism in France becoming apparent, centrists have no cause for complacency.”
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

Macron’s decisive victory notwithstanding, Le Pen is not walking away empty-handed. In a little more than a decade, she has succeeded in transforming her party, the National Rally (formerly the National Front), from a toxic fringe group to one of the most significant players in French politics. She has advanced to the presidential runoff twice, but perhaps most significant of all, she has normalized her far-right politics on Islam and immigration and has forced her mainstream opponents—Macron among them—to engage with, and in some cases even appropriate, her views…

“Le Pen didn’t win this time, but if her own success and that of other far-right parties across Europe are any indication, she didn’t need to. As long as she remains a frontline political figure, and as long as mainstream parties continue to court her supporters, she and her party will continue to hold considerable sway over French politics.”
Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic

“It is worth noting what France’s election result was not. It was not a victory for France’s established parties, which garnered a mere 7 percent combined and were culled in the first round voting. And it was not a campaign waged on the cultural left. For instance, in recent years, Macron’s ministers sometime have claimed, sort of uproariously, that Le Pen’s people aren’t concerned about the French Republic’s compatibility with Islam enough

“In contrast to American leadership, Macron made clear French statues weren’t coming down. As the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial winds down in Fairfax, it’s also worth recalling it was the Paris-led reaction to #MeToo that was the most clearly skeptical of the phenomenon’s excesses from the start… So, if Macron’s reelection is an establishment, center-left victory, it is a strange, center-left victory.”
Curt Mills, American Conservative

“As the election laid bare, France is dangerously divided along economic and generational fault lines. A majority of blue-collar workers – and more than four in 10 voters overall – opted for Ms Le Pen. This, the best score in the history of the French far right, allowed Ms Le Pen to declare her share of the vote a ‘victory in itself’… If he is to successfully navigate this volatile political landscape, Mr Macron will need to adopt a radically different playbook from the one that characterised his first five years in the Élysée…

“In an encouraging early statement of intent, it has already been signalled that there will be full consultation with unions and other bodies over proposals to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65. As the cost-of-living crisis bites, in a still fragile post-Covid economy, Mr Macron should also recognise that more needs to be done to protect and improve the living standards of blue-collar workers and the youthful precariat.”
Editorial Board, The Guardian

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“In 2019, Macron’s education minister suggested that teachers ask Muslim mothers to remove their headscarves if they wished to chaperone school trips. In 2020, his interior minister denounced the fact that French supermarkets have separate aisles for halal and kosher food… [In 2020] Macron’s minister for higher education announced an investigation into ‘Islamo-leftism’ (whatever that is) at France’s universities. (If that doesn’t appall you, just substitute the phrase ‘Judeo-leftism.’)…

“Then, last August, Macron pushed through an anti-separatism law denounced by Amnesty International as a ‘serious threat to rights and freedoms in France.’ Under its auspices, the French government has closed 718 mosques, Muslim schools and associations for encouraging separatism and seized assets worth 46 million euros, often on what human rights groups call vague and specious grounds… If you judge Macron primarily on his policies toward Putin, he may look like a champion of liberal democracy and human rights. But if you judge him primarily on his policies toward French Muslims, he doesn’t look that way at all.”

Peter Beinart, Substack

From the Right

“Macron is clearly an Open-society leader. He favors globalization, an enlarged European Union, free trade, and immigration. He declared that there is no French culture as such but sees France as a melting pot of cultures. Whereas young French used to learn at school to be proud of the past French Empire, Macron has said that the colonization of Africa was a crime against humanity. He welcomes refugees. In economic affairs, he supports the principle of creative destruction, with no sympathy for obsolete industries… Reverse all these beliefs, and you have Marine Le Pen…

“Many observers on the Left classify the Closed society as ‘populist.’ True enough: closed-society candidates and representatives mention ‘the People as opposed to the System.’ But these seem to me like slogans with no clear meaning. The only substantial distinction, as far as we know, is sociological. Supporters of the Open society tend to be better-educated, wealthier, and more travelled than supporters of the Closed society… This new paradigm shift, from a Left/Right distinction to an Open/Closed one, could become a universal political transformation.”

Guy Sorman, City Journal

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