This weekend we saw Emmanuel Macron elected eighth president of the Fifth Republic, with 66.1% of the vote. Macron ran on a ticket that promised change.
En Marche is a movement built on economic and social liberalism, attracting voters from both the centre-left and centre-right. Macron aims to de-regulate the French economy, opening up public services to competition and encouraging investment into the French economy. With unemployment hovering around 10%, this could help create more jobs, providing a stimulus for a stagnating economy. His message of hope and a vision for a more prosperous France came at the correct time for many voters.
However, Marine Le Pen offered the most radical type of change. Her vision was for a France separate from the European Union, and most importantly for Le Pen, outside of the Euro and Schengen area.
France’s economic stagnation has given way to Euroscepticism, with many believing the Euro is to blame for France’s economic troubles. As well as this, many workers have seen their jobs move to countries within the EU with much lower wages.
Terrorism has also plagued France. Le Pen’s supporters are quick to blame Europe’s open borders for causing France’s emergency state. They believe that Islamist extremists have been able to pose as refugees and gain access to France. While there is no hard evidence any of the attacks carried out in France have been from extremists posing as refugees, it has certainly increased tension and given Le Pen a platform.
Therefore, Macron has real pressure to deliver the economic change he has promised, alongside trying to reform Europe - a promise which undoubtedly won over moderate Eurosceptics. If he doesn’t, tensions will increase further, bolstering the Front National. However, with Macron being a strong believer in the European project, many Eurosceptics, including Nigel Farage, believe Macron’s reforms will actually result in more centralised powers for the EU.
It is possible his reforms will actually mean more powers for the Eurozone, given that he wants a separate Eurozone budget, a Eurozone minister, and for the Eurozone to have its own parliament.
We have seen a pattern over the past several years in France. The more centralised and integrated the European project, the stronger Euroscepticism grows. The French people will not be pushed around. If Macron pushes forward with his plan for a France integrated further into the European project, Euroscepticism will continue to rise.
Le Pen would have had a real chance of being elected if she wasn’t attached to the National Front. A party looked upon as a bunch of fascists by many in France, Le Pen will spend the next five years trying to separate herself further from the party, hoping the anti-EU and tighter immigration promises will continue to become more popular.
Macron’s promises of fundamental EU reform, made to encourage Eurosceptics to vote for him, will be remembered. If he doesn't deliver the reform they believed he promised, Le Pen will be waiting to strike in 2022.
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