Unknown three years ago, Emmanuel Macron is now on his way to become one of Europe’s most powerful leaders. But there’s also a possibility that 39-year-old Macron – France’s youngest president in history – could flop and prove himself to be nothing but an empty vessel. For now, the European Union is celebrating not because Macron has won, but rather Le Pen has lost.
Investors across the globe got what they expected – and what many of them hoped for – after centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French election. This is perhaps the best solution for the financial market. An unexpected victory to Le Pen, which was highly unlikely, would definitely trigger a global financial meltdown.
But why was it impossible for Le Pen to win? That’s because France election system was rigged from the beginning. The system is designed specifically to prevent a candidate like Le Pen from winning – by having two rounds. If no candidate wins 50% in the first round, the top two go head-to-head. And with left-wing, centrist and right-wing (and others in between) in the ring, nobody can get 50%.
As the only far-right populist, Marine Le Pen fought a rigged and unfair battle against 9 men since the start of the 2017 French presidency election. To split the votes, the French has a tradition called the “Republican Front”, where voters from the left, centre and centre-right conspire together to keep the far-right from power – a lesser-of-two-evils voting tactic.
To add salt into Le Pen’s injury, French mainstream media is not as democratic as American liberal media, which was already considered very bias against Donald Trump. France’s electoral commission had ordered media not to publish contents of Emmanuel Macron’s latest scandal – leaked campaign emails – to avoid influencing the election.
France’s journalists were threatened with possible criminal charges for publishing or republishing the “leaked material” scandal – on Macron’s alleged offshore bank account – under laws forbidding any commentary liable to affect the presidential race. Macron was exposed to have stashed massive amount of money and assets – secretly – in the Cayman Islands.
Again, the Russian was accused for the leaks of as much as 9GB gigabytes of data which could affect France presidential election results, the same way Kremlin was blamed for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 U.S. presidency election. With 90% of votes counted, 48-year-old Le Pen managed to get roughly 36% while Macron gets the lion share 64% of the votes.
Brussels and Berlin celebrate Macron’s victory because the pro-European former investment banker is the lesser of two evils. In reality, the EU elites have had lost their dignity after President François Hollande became the first sitting president not to seek re-election in the French republic, founded in 1958. Later, their best bet – François Fillon – was also terminated in the first round.
From the left, they kept shifting toward the centre to get their next best candidate. Now, the EU gets Macron, who is “neither of the left, nor right”. But many French voters backed Mr. Macron reluctantly, not because they agree with his politics but simply to keep out Ms Le Pen and her far-right National Front. Had there been only a one-round election, Le Pen could have won her presidency.
It was by design that 39-year-old Macron suddenly quit the government of outgoing Socialist president Francois Hollande to run as an independent in his first electoral campaign. It was to provide French voters with an option of a so-called young independent leader, beating even Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, whom at 40 years old in 1848, was previously the youngest French leader.
The fact remains, however, that today’s France is badly disintegrated. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate defeated in the first round of voting, refused to tell his supporters to back Macron. James Shields, professor of French politics and modern history at Britain’s Aston University, said – “Many left-wing voters have difficulty in endorsing a Macron program they see as too right-leaning.”
As a result, a third of French voters had either abstained or spoilt their ballots. With more than 80% of votes counted, the abstention rate stood at 24.52% – the highest since the presidential election in 1969. Interior ministry also reported a record 9% of voters casting blank and invalid ballots – traditionally used by disgruntled French voters as a protest vote.
Macron is also seen a Trojan horse for neo-liberalism – a stooge for global capitalism. He pledges to slash corporation tax and cut public-sector jobs. In comparison, Le Pen has taken a hard line on immigrants and Muslims, threatened to take France out of the European Union and even suggested it could exit NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance.
It appears that the French prefer a “globalist” Macron to a “patriotic” Le Pen, at least for now. After winning his throne, Macron will now face huge challenges as he attempts to enact his domestic agenda of cutting state spending, easing labour laws, boosting education in deprived areas, extending new protections to the self-employed and combating terrorism.
The young inexperienced president is also tasked to heal a fractured and demoralised nation, not to mention deep economic and social divisions, as well as tensions around identity and immigration. EU can now breathe a sigh of relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalisation programme has been defeated. But it’s only a temporary relief.
One has to remember that in the first round of the presidential election on April 23, Macron topped the vote with 24.01%, followed by Le Pen’s 21.30%, in a crowded field of 11 candidates. Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, laced his welcome for Macron with a warning to the French, saying – “If he fails, in 5 years Mrs. Le Pen will be president and the European project will go to the dogs.”
Le Pen might be down but she’s certainly not out. She has won 11 million votes, which would be her party’s highest-ever electoral score. And she has immediately turned her focus to France’s upcoming legislative election in June, where Macron will need a working majority to govern effectively. Despite getting 64% of votes, Macron could be reduced to macaroni if he fails and people revolt.