First came the presidential victory, and now a clear parliamentary majority – Emmanuel Macron and his La République en Marche are here to stay. All the mainstream parties have been swept aside in a remarkable turn of events, handing the 39-year-old president a strong mandate to carry out his pro-European Union (EU), business-friendly reform plans. But will it be all smooth sailing for the new wonder-boy of French politics?
With nearly all votes counted, Macron’s party, alongside its MoDem allies, won more than 300 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly. The winning margin is lower than some expected, with turnout down from 2012.
While some feel the low turnout in the parliamentary elections does not bode well for the president, others are confident this will not come in the way of governance and reforms. Macron has what it takes to put France on a firm footing in the years to come, they opine. That Macron’s party was formed just over a year ago, and half of its candidates have little or no political experience, doesn’t seem to deter the optimists – for whom the road ahead is one of opportunities.
The more cautious ones, though, point out that challenges such as “managing a massive but heterogeneous and inexperienced majority in parliament in a country that is socially unstable” cannot be ignored. One of the tasks ahead is to “avoid a mess” in the La Republique en Marche, which is an assembly of people with different political views who are disillusioned with traditional parties on the left and right, as well as of people with no political experience at all. Also, big majorities can sometimes be difficult to manage due to the presence of “subgroups or political clubs”, according to political scientist Olivier Rozenberg.
Some observers also doubt if he has the democratic clout to drive through reforms after an election in which 57% of the electorate chose not to cast a ballot. “The new majority should not make the mistake of thinking that voters gave them a blank cheque,” political scientist Yves-Marie Cann said. “They have been lucky that there was no mobilisation against them.”
While Macron has to contend with a number of public grievances and concerns, including security, disappearance of industries and concentration of opportunities in the biggest cities, some commentators point out that things are not that bad either. They still have “world-class companies, well-run public services and generally comfortable living standards”, according to one analysis. Also, social mobility is higher in France than in the US, for example. And, despite all its integration challenges, France has a strong civic ideal around which to unite people of all stripes.
Macron needs to tap into these strengths to boost France’s competitiveness, create opportunities for the youth and restore the country’s confidence, and he has the mandate to do so, the observers point out.
As the new MPs take their seats, Macron will participate in his first European Union summit in Brussels. Around two months after his election, the time has come when he will start to be tested on both his domestic and EU ambitions for reform.
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