The new face of French politics is a symptom of France's problems, not a solution to themby Chris Bickerton / April 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
Having fought a campaign around the theme of overturning the political establishment and pitching himself as the leader of an insurgent citizen-led movement, that very same establishment greeted Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of the French presidential election with a huge sigh of relief. This tells us something about the candidate who is now most likely to become the next president of France.
Macron’s success boils down to one key insight: the French Socialist party (PS) is a sinking ship and anyone tied to it will go down with it. Macron quit the government presided over by François Hollande just in time to make his image as an outsider plausible. He decided to run as an independent rather than seek the Socialist Party nomination by taking part in the open primaries. This laid the basis for his success. The relegation of the Socialist Party candidate, Benoît Hamon, to fifth place in the first round, where he secured a paltry 6.4 per cent of the vote, is the big story of this election so far. It had a decisive effect in both propelling Macron to first place in the first round and in pushing up Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s vote share to within a whisker of François Fillon. The latter got 19.9 per cent of the vote, Mélenchon 19.6 per cent.
The collapse of the PS made the Macron phenomenon possible and this dynamic will shape a Macron presidency, assuming—as all conventional wisdom is doing—he goes on to beat Marine Le Pen in the second round. His En Marche! movement captured imaginations, but only because of his call to break the mould of French party politics. Disillusionment with the capacity of these parties to organise and lead is what drew people to Macron.
But in this first round of voting—which is traditionally said to be the time for voting with hearts, rather than heads—it was striking how often people said they were voting in order to avoid someone else getting through. This sort of negative reasoning suited Macron perfectly as he was the acceptable face of…