French revolution: Emmanuel Macron shows how liberals can turn the tide against populism
This could be the era not just of business startups but also of political startups. Emmanuel Macron has come seemingly out of nowhere – his party En Marche! was formed just a year back – to decimate candidates from established political parties and win France’s presidency.
This could be the era not just of business startups but also of political startups. Emmanuel Macron has come seemingly out of nowhere – his party En Marche! was formed just a year back – to decimate candidates from established political parties and win France’s presidency. In doing so Macron – at 39 years of age – has not only become the youngest leader of France since Napoleon, he has also overcome the wave of populism that has been sweeping the Western world by boldly spelling out a message of hope, openness and innovation in place of nostalgic retreat to a hoary past.
In the second round of presidential polls Macron won a substantial 66% of votes, defeating far right rival Marine Le Pen. Macron’s election is a shot in the arm for European unity. It puts to rest – at least for the time being – fears of a French exit or Frexit from EU, even if that news is badly received in London, Washington or Moscow. Given that the UK seems to be careening towards Brexit, Macron’s ascent makes a hard Brexit more likely.
Macron has strongly advocated for a reformed EU and pitched for a national renewal that would enable France to take advantage of a globalised world. In that sense, Macron offers the perfect mix of liberal, internationalist values and the need for change. He has promised to unleash entrepreneurial spirits, re-orient the French welfare regime, and prepare people for jobs of the future. Macron’s victory also highlights how continental Europe is upending the Anglo-Saxon trend of growing protectionism. Earlier this year Holland voted against the far-right Party of Freedom of Geert Wilders, choosing to go with incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte. While right-wing populist parties have been quick to capitalise on a widespread yearning for change, Macron has shown that by offering a new political ideal that transcends the traditional left-right divide, liberals too can take advantage of this yearning for change.
Plus, it is also possible that electorates are getting tired of the fear-mongering, hyper-nationalist identity politics that right-wing parties have been offering. There’s reason to believe that leaked emails targeting Macron ahead of the presidential run-off backfired for his opponents. But for Macron to consolidate his victory he must now secure a majority for En Marche! in French parliamentary elections next month. Else the French electorate would have sent confused signals by tying Macron’s hands.
Times of India, May 9, 2017
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