The news that 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, a political novice, became the leader of the country, following the French Presidential Election on May 7, is not new.
Macron who does not hail from a big politically connected family and does not have any connection to a mainstream political party managed to break Napoleon Bonaparte’s record as the youngest to become the leader of France. Bonaparte became the King of France at the age of 40. From our viewpoint, Macron broke an even more special record than the one previously held by Bonaparte. That involves the fact that ever since France became a republic, the President was chosen based on the Socialist and Republican parties.
However, during the first vote of the Presidential Election, the candidates who represented the two mainstream parties were thrown out. Prior to the initial voting, along with the two candidates from the two mainstream parties, there were altogether four candidates. Following the first vote, only Macron and Marine Le Pen came to the fore. In the first round, Macron got a more voter percentage than Le Pen and in the second round he gained approximately 65% of the vote. Several aspects of the French Presidential Election drew our attention.
In any election, one can see a split in the ideology. Yet, the French Presidential Election, became an entirely ideological battle. As Le Pen, Macron’s challenger, rightly noted after her defeat, the French Presidential Election was a battle between patriotism or nationalism and centrism. In France, while nationalism was defeated to a certain degree, centrism or more correctly Europeanism triumphed.
Le Pen stated that France would come first. The central principle of her politico-scientific outlook was that the country came first. Therefore, based on that philosophy, she emphasized that France should follow her own path. A point she highlighted was that there should be a major change in France’s European Union (EU) Membership. If by some chance, Le Pen won, France, the biggest country with the EU Membership, would have withdrawn.
Britain too is entering into a somewhat lengthy process of moving out of the EU Membership. The people who voted in favour of Britain withdrawing from the EU at the referendum conducted in this regard, joined Prime Minister Theresa May. However, one cannot say that the nationalist project was defeated entirely at the French Presidential Election. The reason for this is that approximately 25% refrained from voting at the said Election.
It could be that the French people, who are currently facing global terrorism and an economic crisis not second to it, hoped for a more robust leader and leadership for the country. On several occasions, France has been faced with Islamic terrorist attacks. After the world economic crisis in 2008, France’s economic growth rate has been slow. Because of this, when compared with other countries with the EU Membership, unemployment has gone up by 10% in France. In France, of those below the age of 25 years, one out of four is unemployed. The problem of migrants and immigration too is a festering one. These issues were discussed during the French Presidential Election. It seems that the French people expected a strong, practical leadership that could solve these matters.
It also seems that the French people do not like a chaotic leadership. If they were in favour of such, they would have chosen not Macron but Le Pen.
On the other hand, even though Macron did not represent France’s political mainstream, he worked as the Finance Minister in former President Francois Hollande’s Government. From what we saw, Hollande helped Macron whilst being in the background.
Regardless, in choosing a political novice like Macron, what we can see is that the French people are ready for a new political experiment. In the first round itself, the French people rejected the candidates representing the traditional political parties. This is a kind of political revolution. As mentioned in the beginning, this is a trend that has not emerged since France became a republic. After rejecting the two traditional parties, France chose Macron, who represented a new party, as the President. This is not at all a small change. What this proves is that the French people have been dissatisfied with the Governments that have ruled France in the recent past. The warning they have directed to and levelled towards the traditional politics, is no small matter.
On one hand, such a revolution may not be a new thing to France, a country which has a history of socio-political revolutions. France has on most occasions tended towards such experimentation. The French revolution arose and emerged due to the failed rule of the kings. What the revolution made by appointing Macron proves is how the French people have responded to the failed Governments of the past.