French correction

| Updated on January 11, 2018

Macron’s win marks a pushback to forces of protectionism and xenophobia

It was with an overwhelming sense of relief that the world greeted the victory of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election. European markets have reacted positively. Macron’s win marks a welcome check to the forces of economic protectionism, xenophobia and Islamophobia unleashed last June by the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s win later that year. A country wracked by a series of terror attacks, claiming some 260 lives over two years, has voted against the far right, and in favour of a unified, pluralist and liberal Europe (Macron won 66 per cent of the votes cast, against Le Pen’s 34 per cent). Even as the elections were marked by the lowest turnout in 40 years, the mandate represents a renewed, even if limited, support for lower trade, investment and immigration barriers. Hence, Macron is likely to combine a socio-cultural agenda of multiculturalism with a push for labour reform and business-friendly policies (not unlike Tony Blair’s ‘new labour’) — and that should be good news for India. Macron’s win comes as a shot in the arm for otherwise despondent centrist political forces all over the world. A bewildering hundred days of the Trump presidency, besides the economic uncertainty in Britain after June 2016, may have played a part in Le Pen’s defeat. Besides, Trump’s broadsides against Nato could have spurred a pro-EU sentiment. The mood in France is likely to have a spillover effect on elections in Germany due this September.

However, it would be far-fetched to say that France or Europe has got the better of its inward looking, revanchist tendencies. It is disturbing enough that Le Pen went till the final round, even as the Socialists, Conservatives and far-Left fell by the wayside. Macron faces a major challenge in the parliamentary elections in June, when Le Pen’s National Front, Republicans and Conservatives may pose a stiff fight to his nascent political movement, ‘En Marche!’ Having emerged as a consensus candidate against a strident Le Pen, and with support across the political spectrum, Macron would perhaps have to build bridges in the legislature as well. A prime minister from another political formation could erode his effectiveness. Macron should address rising unemployment and socio-economic disparities in France, reversing years of stagnation under the Hollande presidency, if he is to indeed alter the political contours of Europe. A failure could mean that anti-globalisation forces, both on the extreme right and left, may emerge with renewed vigour. The world leadership needs to reshape globalisation in a more acceptable, inclusive avatar, with regulatory checks and balances, as Macron has advocated in his campaign. Whether France shows the way here is to be seen.

A centrist France marks a sense of continuity in a milieu of political disruption and rising anti-democratic tendencies. It is good news for taking the Paris agreement on climate change forward. India should imbibe the political import of the poll verdict, as it reaches out to engage with France.

Published on May 08, 2017

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