Macron: Middle path reprieve
Irrespective of what certain political commentators may suggest, Emmanuel Macron's rise to the French Presidency is a stunning achievement. Yes, the political stars did align in his favour with the mainstream Socialist and Conservative parties running into disarray, and a lot of voters casting their ballot for the youngest French President in history just to avoid Marine Le Pen's far-right toxic populism. Nonetheless, for a man who was virtually unknown in the French political scene three years ago and with no established political party behind him, Macron's rise to the top holds some interesting lessons for which way the political ground has considerably shifted in Europe. France may not have gone down the path taken by the United States in choosing a liberal, cosmopolitan and pro-European Union candidate. However, no one should be under the impression that the march of populism, fuelled by rage against the economic system left behind by the current avatar of globalisation and an anti-immigrant sentiment, has come to a halt in Europe with Sunday's results. There is no doubt that Monday's result is merely a reprieve for Europe's liberal order.
A real measure of the continent's apparent rejection of toxic populism will be clearer after the upcoming Italian and German general elections. What France has right now is a President who is indeed a product of the country's elite institutions with a strong grasp of the country's deep-seated economic woes and some good ideas about how to resolve them. In winning more than 66% of the vote, Macron did understand that voters were tired of Left-Right ideological dichotomy that has characterised French politics. "We can't respond with the same men and the same ideas," he said on the campaign trail. It is this popular sentiment (for a complete rejection of the established political order) that propelled his far-right rival Len Pen's campaign too. Instead of espousing an extreme and evidently toxic populism driven by a wave of xenophobia that has gripped the continent after the 2008 financial crisis, Macron chose the middle path, borrowing economic policies from the right allied with social welfare measuresfrom the left. The first challenge before Macron is to come up with a majority in next month's French Parliamentary elections without the backing of an established political party. Without Parliament on his side, Macron will be unable to institute the type of reforms that would stabilise the French economy, bring back jobs and dig the European Union out of trouble with his counterparts on the continent. If he is unable to bring the economy on track, and protect the country from the scourge of transnational Islamist terror, France could well see a Le Pen-type candidate taking the reins in 2022. Macron has little choice but to address the deep-seated anger of those left behind by globalisation, in particular among the working class. A lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders on the 39-year-old French President.