Emanuel Macron election in France saves the EU for now

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Those who thought or hoped that France is a democracy, know better by now. In a two-stage process the French elected a new president, the liberal and pro-EU Emanuel Macron (39), who got only 24% of the votes in the first election round on April 23, where number two, the right-wing populist and anti-EU Marine Le Pen (49) got 21 %.

Other candidates were the left wing Jean Luc Mélenchon (20 %), the conservative François Villon (20%) and the socialist Benoit Hamon (7%). Seven other candidates shared the remaining seven percent of the votes.

The French system is such, that if no-one has a majority in the first round, the front runners go to a second round, in this case Emanuel Macron and Marine le Pen. In the second round on May 7, Emanuel Macron got 66% of the votes and Marine Le Pen 34%, so apparently a clear victory for Macron. However, the turn-out was only 75% and almost 11.5 % of the votes were invalid or blank. In the first round these figures were 78% and 2.6%.

Marine Le Pen

Exit polls showed that many French only voted for Macron because they considered him the lesser of two evils, compared to the populist, anti-immigrant and anti-EU Marine Le Pen. The fact is that Macron is distrusted by many French, because he is a former tax official, banker, socialist politician and minister for economic affairs for the socialist president Hollande, who for years was his teacher and mentor. Last year, when Macron suddenly turned against president Hollande and announced his own candidacy for the presidency, French cartoonists depicted him as a Brutus who put a knife in Hollande’s back.

Macron has announced drastic reforms for the fossilized French economy and labor market, and he also wants major changes in the organization and policies of the EU. His first foreign trip, last week, was to Germany, where he met Angela Merkel, who is also a strong supporter of change within the EU.

Recent local elections in two of Germany’s largest federal states, showed a surprising support and increased popularity for Angela Merkel’s Christian-Democratic CDU and the liberal FDP, while the social democratic party SDU lost dramatically. It seems that Angela Merkel has nothing to fear for the forthcoming national elections on September 24.

If the two major members of the EU, France and Germany, now join forces in a reform of the EU, something is about to happen, certainly after the British announced their exit and thus reduced their political influence to zero.

However, the new French president Macron has one weakness, but a serious one: he still lacks his own party for the parliamentary elections of next month. So he has only a very short time to organize that, or otherwise he might become a president without the necessary political support in parliament. This could seriously hamper his plans for France and the EU.

The recent elections in Europe, in Holland and France, and locally in Germany, all show a similar trend: a strong position for the centrist parties, the Christian democrats and the right wing liberal parties, but dramatic losses for the left wing social democrats. The undercurrent of populist and anti-EU parties is gaining popularity, but is not strong enough to pose a threat to the existing pro-EU parties. So in spite of the Brexit, the EU will remain, but there may be hopes for a less technocratic and more open and democratic Union.

Photos are screen shots from YouTube