Macron trumps Le Pen in French election, sets political tone for future

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By Lisa Hladik World News Editor The results of a tension-filled French election came out over this past weekend, and Emmanuel Macron defeated his opponent Marine Le Pen. The election represents an important choice by French voters as France’s political scene is undergoing a distinctive shift. The election presented a choice between candidates at opposites of the political spectrum, presenting a stark contrast for French voters. Newly elected president Mr. Macron is a young former investment banker who holds more centrist views, while Ms. Le Pen is decidedly a right-wing nationalist. Mr. Macron is an unlikely winner for more reasons than his political views. At 39 years old, he will be the youngest president in the 59-year history of the French Republic. Furthermore, Mr. Macron’s victory represented a defeat for the French political establishment. He has never even held a political office before. The French election had important domestic and international ramifications. The election was under the microscope around the world because it represented the broader tensions that also exist in other Western democracies, such as the United States. These democracies have the same themes of populist anger at mainstream politics, an increasingly unstable middle-class as well as increased nationalism creating resentment against immigrants. In particular, the election was being watched closely by other European nations. Mr. Macron’s victory brought relief to the European Union because his opponent, Ms. Le Pen, had threatened to leave this organization. Following on the heels of the United Kingdom’s “Brexit,” France’s departure would have severely weakened the Union. Even Mr. Macron’s economic policies are set to enhance France’s relationship with the European Union. He wants to relax labor laws in order to allow France to become more competitive on the global stage, especially with other member nations of the European Union. Mr. Macron’s victory has also calmed the anxieties of the global financial market, which was dreading the prospect of a Le Pen victory. Mr. Macron’s election has also shown that the populist feelings that propelled Mr. Donald Trump into the United States’ White House and the U.K. out of the EU have stymied in Europe at the present time. Despite the results of the election, the French voters admittedly did show some skepticism. A considerable portion of the French public did not even vote, refusing to choose between the two candidates. This shows that a fair portion of the French public is still harboring doubts about their incumbent president. Still, Mr. Macron’s victory was decisive amongst those who did cast their ballot. Mr. Macron earned 66 percent of the vote as compared with Ms. Le Pen’s 34 percent, according to the official count from the Interior Ministry. However, receiving this portion of the electorate represented progress for Ms. Le Pen and the far-right National Front. It showed that the party is not a small minority in France, but rather has enough legitimacy to earn the votes of about one-third of France’s ballot. The party likely continues to face challenges in appealing the rest of France’s electorate because of an unappealing history. It has been difficult for the National Front to disassociate with its past platforms of anti-Semitism, racism and ties to Nazi views. While a majority of voters could not bring themselves to vote for the far-right extremism of Ms. Le Pen, a huge portion also refused to cast a ballot for Mr. Macron. The abstention rate was 34 percent, which is the highest in a French election since 1969. Mr. Macron could find a lack of public support to prove a huge difficulty as he takes on the presidency. He will not be able to effect much change if he is unable to form a legislative majority that will pass his programs. Thus, the political climate of France going forward will largely hinge on the parliamentary elections next month. This is hugely important for Mr. Macron, who currently has no political party backing in the French legislative body. One of the obstacle to Mr. Macron garnering backing is his support of a market economy. The French public has many doubts about implementing such a different economic policy. While Mr. Macron broke definitive political ground as an outsider candidate breaking through the French political establishment, he still has a long way to go to be able to use his newfound political power, leaving France’s political future uncertain.

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