Macron’s mo­ment after French vote

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN LICH­FIELD

THE UN­PRE­DICTABLE has be­come the near cer­tain.

The next French pres­i­dent will be a 39-year-old who has never held elected of­fice.

On May 7 Em­manuel Macron will be­come the youngest French leader since Napoleon and the youngest leader of any large democ­racy in re­cent times.

In the first round of the French pres­i­den­tial elec­tions on Sun­day, Macron — pro-Is­raeli but crit­i­cal of the present gov­ern­ment in Jerusalem — took first place with 23.9 per cent of the vote.

Marine Le Pen, the Na­tional Front leader, also qual­i­fied for the two can­di­date run-off with 21.4 per cent.

Both the “nat­u­ral” par­ties of gov­ern­ment, the cen­tre-right Les Repub­li­cains and cen­tre-left So­cial­ists, failed to reach the sec­ond round for the first time since France switched to Pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics al­most 60 years ago.

The re­sult can be seen as yet an­other re­jec­tion of the “elite” and the “sta­tus quo”. At the same time, it con­se­crated the ex­tra­or­di­nary rise of a young man who is pure prod­uct of the French elite and wishes to re­pair rather than de­stroy the sta­tus quo in both France and the Euro­pean Union.

De­spite the nar­row mar­gin, the first round of the elec­tion was a star­tling vic­tory for the cen­trist, re­formist, proEuro­pean Macron and, ar­guably, a moral de­feat for Le Pen.

De­spite the pop­ulist wave which gave the world Brexit and Don­ald Trump, de­spite an ag­o­nis­ing se­ries of Is­lamist ter­ror­ist at­tacks in France, the anti-Euro­pean and Is­lam­o­pho­bic Madame Le Pen scored only three per­cent­age points more than she did in 2012. Two months ago she led the French polls with around 26-27 per cent. In the re­gional elec­tions in 2015, her cos­met­i­cally de­odorised far-right party took 28 per cent of the vote in the first round.

The French polls have al­ways sug- gested that Madame Le Pen would lose any sec­ond-round match-up by a wide mar­gin. Against Macron, the opin­ion polls now sug­gest that she will lose by around 40-60 per cent.

Pol­i­tics hates a cer­tainty. That gap may nar­row. Al­most all se­nior fig­ures on the cen­tre-left and cen­tre-right of French pol­i­tics have called on their sup­port­ers to vote for Macron and “bar the way” to Le Pen.

Some vot­ers on the French cen­treright and hard-left, whose can­di­dates scored around 19 per cent each last Sun­day, will ig­nore that ad­vice and ab­stain or cast protest votes for Le Pen. But it is un­think­able, even in th­ese revo­lu­tion­ary po­lit­i­cal times, that Macron will lose a 20 per cent lead. His real prob­lem will come in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions which fol­low in June. Ex­pect a hope­less hung na­tional assem­bly from which Macron will have la­bo­ri­ously to as­sem­ble a cen­trist ma­jor­ity.

Macron, whose wife Brigitte is 25 years his se­nior and was once his teacher, has had an ex­tra­or­di­nary rise. He served for less than two years as fi­nance min­is­ter in the Fran­cois Hol­lande gov­ern­ment. He pre­vi­ously worked for the French arm of Roth­schilds bank.

On Mid­dle Eastern pol­i­tics, he is an un­con­di­tional sup­porter of the state of Is­rael but not the Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment. He has, like on many other is­sues, given sub­tly dif­fer­ing ac­counts of his views on the es­tab­lish­ment of a Pales­tinian state.

Above all, Macron may be that rarest of breeds — a lucky politi­cian. The waves have mirac­u­lously parted, to the left and to the right, to al­low him to walk to the gates of the El­y­see Palace. There are now grow­ing signs that he will in­herit a long-awaited French eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Em­manuel Macron cel­e­brates on Sun­day night

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