Macron's Victory Was a 'Political Earthquake' for France

Macron has to govern a deeply divided nation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2017 4:23 AM CDT
Updated May 8, 2017 6:30 AM CDT
Hardest Part Lies Ahead for France's Next President
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron gestures during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The pollsters were wrong once again with France's presidential runoff election but there was no surprise result this time: Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen 66% to 34%, a much bigger margin than the 20 points that had been predicted, Reuters reports. But 34% was still a record for Le Pen's National Front, and analysts say it shows the pro-business, pro-EU Macron has a big struggle ahead to unite a divided nation—as does the fact that in a race between two political outsiders, more than a third of voters either didn't show up or cast a blank ballot. A roundup of coverage:

  • The BBC looks at five reasons for what it calls the "political earthquake" of Macron's victory. They include the scandal that knocked out the initial front-runner, and a strong grassroots operation inspired by Barack Obama's 2008 victory.

  • The result may be a sign that the "populist wave" that led to the Brexit vote and the election of President Trump may be fading, the New York Times reports. "I understand the divisions of our country that have led some to vote for extremists," Macron said after the vote. "I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a great part among us have also expressed."
  • Governing is going to be the hard part for Macron, who will have to deal with the country's established political parties while implementing his "neither left nor right" policies, EJ Dionne writes in a Washington Post op-ed. "Macron is both a former investment banker and a moderate social democrat," he writes. "Demonstrating how these two sides of him fit together will define the drama of his presidency."
  • The Guardian predicts that there will be no honeymoon period for the 39-year-old president-elect and his "En Marche" movement. As well as the sharp divide between left and right, he has to deal with problems including mass youth unemployment, rising inequality, and the threat of terrorism, which still has the country under a state of emergency.
  • Condoleezza Rice tells USA Today that despite the defeat, Marine Le Pen and similar anti-free trade, anti-immigration populists are still having a worrying effect on politics. "I really do believe that these populists are changing the character of the politics just by being there, so even mainstream candidates are having to respond to their agenda," she says.
  • Vladimir Putin and President Trump were among the world leaders congratulating Macron on Sunday. "I look very much forward to working with him!" Trump tweeted. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the win as a victory for a "strong and united Europe," France24 reports.
  • CNN notes that centrist candidates in Europe and elsewhere are now looking to Macron for an example of how to defeat candidates like Le Pen amid widespread voter dissatisfaction. Macron's youth—he is France's youngest president ever and its youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor at 34—helped distance him from the political establishment.
(More Emmanuel Macron stories.)

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