International

Macron’s France

Emmanuel Macron became the French President in 2017, beating rival Marine Le Pen of the Front National Party by a considerable margin. He now faces challenges home and abroad on a vast number of issues, the first of which involves getting support from the National Assembly.

Mr. Macron’s win in the French Presidential elections was greeted with relief, both at home and abroad. Despite the rise of populist, far right sentiments across the world, Macron secured a significant victory, beating Marine Le Pen and her Front National Party by a margin of 31%. It’s the second highest victory margin in France since Ms. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen was defeated by Jacques Chirac in 2002.

What was interesting this election was that for the first time since the Fifth Republic was established in 1958, France has a President who is not from the two established political parties; The Socialists on the left wing, and their right leaning counterparts, The Republicans. In order to pass through his policies, he needs their support in the National Assembly elections set to be held in June 2017. And that’s where things get interesting.

Despite such a large margin of victory, many voters in France have actually reluctantly voted for him. According to polling company Ipsos, 43% of the voters voted for him to oppose the Front National Party. Only a remarkable 24% of the voters voted for him because they agree with his policies or like his personality. Street interviews of young French voters conducted by Al-Jazeera revealed they oppose his economic policies, describing them as neo-liberal.
This shows how difficult the path that lies ahead is for Emmanuel Macron. He has to appease voters on both sides of the political aisle through his policies.

Macron is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. As the minister of economy under previous President Francois Hollande (Socialist Party), Macron played a crucial role in formulating many of the austerity policies which proved unpopular with the French public and ultimately cost the President his job.

The new President wants to bring similar economic policies as those utilized in the United States and the United Kingdom. He wants to attack left-wing policies which has been a hallmark of French economic culture such as its 35 hour work week and cutting down corporation tax from 35% to 25%. He wants to negate the influence of trade unions and cut down bureaucracy involved in operating businesses.

IN ORDER TO PASS THROUGH HIS POLICIES, HE NEEDS THEIR SUPPORT IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS SET TO BE HELD IN JUNE 2017. AND THAT’S WHERE THINGS GET INTERESTING.

The President has pledged to cut down government spending by $65 billion during his term. According to Al-Jazeera, this amount is equivalent to job losses of around 120,000 in the public sector. At the same time, he has also pledged to introduce a $54 billion stimulus package aimed at tackling youth unemployment by providing training schemes. At least $16 billion of that amount will be directed towards green initiatives.
Such policies are very likely to alienate left leaning voters, while winning over their counterparts on the right. On the other hand, his other, non-economic policies are likely to have the opposite effect.

President Macron is a strong advocate of remaining within the European Union, albeit with changes to how it is run. He wants to implement reforms which would make the Union more accountable to members of the European Parliament. He also wants to appoint a special Eurozone minister who would oversee the Euro currency and will be answerable to the elected officials.

A key issue where the President can win over the left is through his immigration and asylum policies. In this regard, he is in line with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He believes refugees should be granted asylum and France should take its fair share. He wants to introduce new measures to integrate migrants into France, including state funded language classes for newcomers.

Another important issue for the French voters was the threat of terrorism. France has been targeted by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and was subject to a number of attacks recently. Macron plans to recruit more than 10,000 police officers to counter this threat on an immediate basis. He has also drawn up long term solutions to wipe the threat out completely, including the creation of de-radicalization centers for former ISIS fighters to help them integrate back into society. He wants to shut down places of worship that promote “extremist” ideologies. The President wants to train and educate more imams in France rather than bring them in from abroad. Although he personally supports the display of religious attire in public, he also believes corporations can make their own rules in regard to religious clothing.

The challenge for Emmanuel Macron will be to pass any of these policies. His first hurdle lies in the National Assembly elections, due to take place in June 2017. The National Assembly is like the House of Congress in the United States. In order to pass his policies, it is critical that he get the support from the Assembly.

It will be a really interesting election as Macron’s policies have elements that appease and inflame both sides of the political spectrum. It seems this could be a lasting theme throughout his term. Mr. Macron has chosen ministers from the Socialists, the Republicans and newcomers. He appointed conservative Edouard Philippe as his Prime Minister.

Although it looks very balanced on paper, if no majority is determined, there may be the danger of a political deadlock, and ultimately an inability to go forward with his policies.

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