Sunday’s presidential election in France won by the youthful Emmanuel Macron wasn’t the routine run-of-the-mill contest between two political rivals; it was more than this.
It was a win-or-lose battle between two competing ideologies and a verdict on the future of the European Union.
It was the culmination of a clash between globalism and narrow populism, and it resulted in victory for those who welcomed the hungry, hapless, washed-ashore immigrants feeling from tyrannical regimes. After the Brexit vote and Trump’s victory it looked as if far-right populism is going to be in the driving seat in Europe as well.
Even though Austria and the Netherlands had voted against populism and stood by the European Union the French popular vote was still awaited. And as it came, it was virtually a veto cast against plans and programmes to bring back the vanishing national borders and thus revive pre-World War Europe. In electing Macron by the 65 percent to 35 percent vote the people of France have sent out a few other messages. One, it is not the political parties and their past and present performances that matter; what matters is the man who is elected to be at the helm of national affairs.
The youngest candidate to be elected president of France, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, had never fought an election, launched no political party but a movement codenamed “En Marche” (March forward) and has won hands down – because what he promised on the electoral trail gelled with the voters’ perceptions and perspectives. His promise was simple but telling; he stands for the defence of liberal values and support of the European Union, the two issues his opponent Marine Le Pen had vigorously campaigned against. No doubt in his stellar electoral win France has undergone a revolution – the revolution of generational upgrade.
But that’s not the end of President-elect Macron’s journey. He has now to contend with one more formidable challenge: he must win a majority in the 577-seat National Assembly in the election next month. There are doubts about his “En Marche” having the matching popularity, which means he might have to stitch up a coalition with other parties and thus accept compromise on some of his ideals.
During the election campaign Macron made a few other pledges. He promised to cut government spending, reform the tax code and relax France’s rigid labour regulations in a bid to overcome the persistent unemployment. These are certainly formidable challenges, but at the end of the tunnel there is ample light, suggesting that the ambience required for Macron to succeed has come to obtain following his historic win. And then in his electoral triumph message for the world that debate about the future of the European Union is over once for all. No wonder that as soon as news of his victory broke the euro and stocks futures registered significant rise, and so was the case with global markets.
And as Europe breathed what is now described as a “collective sigh of relief,” world leaders sent warm greetings to President-elect Macron. And among them was Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May of late been posturing to be tough and unforgiving at the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. -Radio Pakistan