As the summer heat stifles and plans for vacation are more important than the latest tweet from Donald Trump, the continuing success of French President Emmanuel Macron gives cause for reflection. How could a 39-year-old create a new political party in one year and then go on to defeat the traditional French parties in the May 7 presidential election? And he continues to succeed. In the recent legislative election, Mr. Macron’s party won 350 seats in the 577 National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.
A skilled observer – and cynic – will respond that in the presidential election Macron was helped by scandals involving the major center-right candidate Francois Fillon, the catastrophic debate performance by the ultra-right candidate Marine Le Pen, the non-existing personality of the Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, and the unpresidential personality of the eloquent far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Macron, the cynic will say, was successful because of weak opposition.
In the legislative election just held, the same observer will note, a record low turnout of about 43 percent showed that Macron does not have overwhelming support. The vote was not a mandate. While some said that the level of abstention was a sign of uncertainty about Macron’s ability to fundamentally change French policies – especially France’s restrictive labor laws – others pointed to specific resistance to the liberal policies the former Rothschild banker espouses. “Our people have entered into a form of civic general strike,” said Mélenchon, the leader of the France Unbowed party who continues to exhibit the worst manifestations of a sore loser.
With summer approaching, and for the French a long period of political inactivity (if only Donald Trump would officially vacation or at least give his telephone tweets a rest), the implementation of Macron’s policies will have to wait until the fall. The dust will settle, some form of normalcy will return after the unexpected emergence of Macron and his La République en marche! victories.
Closer analysis points to a major factor that may diminish all the promises of the government. 60% of the elected officials are new to office. The old parties have reduced power – the bums have been thrown out – but the neophytes will have to learn the trade and finally succeed if Macron is to continue his journey. The people of France have voted against the old parties. But, it is one thing to be displeased with things as they are, it is another to replace that system with something better, as Donald Trump and the Republicans are discovering in trying the repeal and replace Obamacare.
The presidential and legislative victories of Emmanuel Macron are impressive. They are also most promising for the future of European integration and international cooperation. He seems to have turned the tide of nationalistic populism in Eastern Europe and Great Britain. Macron has also shown the possibilities for a new generation to gain power in a most traditional country.
The “bums” have been thrown out. We have seen a form of repeal and replace. When the summer vacation period ends, it will be time to watch the new generation get down to work.