France elects its own ver­sion of Trudeau

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

France has found its own, home­grown Justin Trudeau. French vot­ers on Sun­day mas­sively sup­ported po­lit­i­cal novice Em­manuel Macron as their pres­i­dent for the next five years. His pack­ag­ing was ex­cel­lent. His hair, though close­cropped, is not bad. Over the next few weeks, France’s peo­ple will open the pack­age and find out what they got.

Tak­ing of­fice at age 39, Macron makes the 45-year-old Justin Trudeau look like an el­der states­man. He ar­rives as the ar­tic­u­late, brainy, highly ed­u­cated fig­ure­head for a new gen­er­a­tion. He seems in­clined to sweep some old cob­webs out of French law, pol­i­tics and eco­nomic struc­ture, if he gets the chance. Un­like Trudeau, he was never a drama teacher, but his wife was — that was how they met when he was her pupil. Un­like Trudeau, he does not lead a po­lit­i­cal party — but he must now cre­ate one quickly to present can­di­dates for the Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions in June.

When he for­mally takes of­fice on Sun­day, Macron will ap­point a prime minister and a cab­i­net. His choices may show the coun­try how wide he will spread his arms in pulling to­gether the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal fac­tions. He may reach into the ranks of the es­tab­lished par­ties whose can­di­dates he trounced in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — or he may ig­nore them al­to­gether and choose tech­nocrats of his own non-par­ti­san ilk.

In the fol­low­ing days, the new pres­i­dent must com­plete the list of can­di­dates he will present as his sup­port­ers in the June leg­isla­tive elec­tions. The list may show whether Macron is a new broom sweep­ing out the old gen­er­a­tion of French politi­cians, or whether he is just a new driver on the same old bus.

Macron gar­nered 66 per cent of the vote in the pres­i­den­tial runoff. He won strong sup­port among the young, the ur­ban and the highly ed­u­cated and those who want to keep France in the Euro­pean Union. Ma­rine Le Pen of the Na­tional Front gar­nered the other 34 per cent, es­pe­cially from farm­ers and older work­ers who cling to the priv­i­leges con­ferred on them by France’s rigid in­dus­trial struc­ture, and from the un­em­ployed who feel ill-served by glob­al­iza­tion. The Na­tional Front re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in French pol­i­tics, but its anti-Europe, anti-for­eigner dis­course has been de­ci­sively re­jected.

The old-line par­ties of the left, the cen­tre and the right lie in ru­ins. If the Na­tional Front ap­pears to pose a gen­uine threat to France’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Euro­pean Union, sup­port­ers of the old par­ties may stick with Macron. If the leg­isla­tive elec­tions re­duce the Na­tional Front once again to an an­noy­ing fringe party, they may feel free to re­turn to their old com­mu­nist, so­cial­ist or repub­li­can loy­al­ties.

Cana­di­ans can en­joy watch­ing how far Macron fol­lows Trudeau’s foot­steps. Will his cab­i­net be half-male, half-fe­male — be­cause it’s 2017? Will he reach out to Ivanka Trump, for want of com­mon cause with her fa­ther? Will he cast him­self as the cham­pion of the mid­dle class and those work­ing hard to join it? Or will he grad­u­ally come to re­sem­ble the old fo­geys he re­placed? Macron

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