The French Presidency Goes to Macron, But It’s Only a Reprieve

Timothy Garton Ash writes for The Guardian:

IN NUMBERS: How the French voted (and how they didn't)[…] From the country which gave us the 1789 example of violent revolution, we now have the personification of today’s worldwide anti-liberal counter-revolution. Le Pen is the very model of a modern national populist. She herself boasted in the TV debate that she is best placed to deal with this brave new world, “to talk about Russia with Putin, to talk about the United States with Trump, to talk about Great Britain with Theresa May”. (How sickening to see a British prime minister listed in that company.) There is every reason to believe that this wave of populist reaction against globalisation, liberalisation and Europeanisation still has a lot of pent-up anger behind it.

Macron knows what needs to be done in France but is unlikely to succeed in doing it. To those who supported Le Pen you have to add the many who abstained, including leftwing voters who described this second round as a choice between cholera and the plague. The president-elect has no established party behind him, so it is totally unclear what majority will emerge from next month’s French parliamentary elections.

If Macron fails to reform France, in 2022 we may yet have a president Le Pen – either Marine or Marion Maréchal-Le Pen He is already being described as “Renzi 2.0”, a reference to the Italian would-be-reformist former premier Matteo Renzi. His super-ambitious target is to reduce public spending from 56% of GDP to just – wait for it – 52%. The obstacles to change in France are enormous, from powerful unions and a bloated public sector to farmers who make a habit of blocking roads with tractors. If Macron fails to reform France, in 2022 we may yet have a president Le Pen.

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