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10 May 2017

Beating Marine Le Pen was just the start, now Emmanuel Macron has to govern

The inexperienced new French president needs to translate his election win into seats in parliament if he wants to get anything done

By Pauline Bock

Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election with 66.1 per cent on the vote on Sunday, making him, at 39, the youngest ever President of the French republic – there has been no younger ruler in French history since Napoléon Bonaparte.

As he addressed the crowd at the Louvre square on Sunday evening, Macron, who faced the hard right candidate Marine Le Pen in the runoff, declared that he would do “everything” in the five years of his mandate to make sure the French people would not be “appealed to vote for the far right again.” However, he recognised that “the task will not be easy,” and he was right.

Macron was elected with 66 per cent of the vote, but by only 44 per cent of all eligible voters. One out of three French voters abstained or chose a null vote (the abstention numbers were the highest since 1969). And among those who voted for him, many only did because the other option, Le Pen’s populism, was unbearable.

At the Louvre, Macron asked the French people to “give him a majority for change” during the parliamentary elections, held on 11 and 18 June. “Our task is great, and it will need to build a strong majority, as soon as tomorrow,” he said.

Macron, a former banker and Hollande’s economy minister until August 2016, had never run for office before he created his independent movement, En Marche!, and launched his presidential bid. With polls crediting En Marche! with 24 to 26 per cent of the vote in the first round of the parliamentary elections, Macron could effectively get a parliamentary majority.

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The movement, which called for locals of all constituencies to apply and run for MP under their banner, said last March it had received over 13,000 applications since January, and continued to receive “200 to 300 a day” for the rest of the campaign. Renamed La République en Marche, the newly-turned party will publish its full list of 577 candidates on 11 May.

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Looking for its parliamentary candidates, En Marche! called for applications online.

If the President’s new party fails to win a majority by itself, Macron’s “neither left nor right” stance will secure backing from centre-leaning Socialists and Republicans. Many left- and right-wing grandees have already pledged to support the new president, who will also be able to count on the centrists, led by Francois Bayrou, an ally of Macron’s during the campaign.

Former Prime minister Manuel Valls has recently offered to run under La Republique en Marche’s colours, only to be informed that the party already had a candidate in his constituency. (Macron and Valls weren’t exactly friends while working in Hollande’s government – but in the long run, Valls is an experienced politician whose help Macron would be foolish to decline.)

Macron will not only have allies at the National Assembly. The hard left, which voted not to endorse Macron, will refuse any kind of alliance with him. They are likely to make up the most vocal portion of the opposition in the immediate future, as other parties are still figuring out their post-election strategy.

The National Front, Marine Le Pen’s party, is struggling with internal divisions surfacing after her defeat; the Socialists are in disarray over their candidate Benoît Hamon’s terrible score of 6 per cent and the centre right is licking its wound from losing the first round to Marine Le Pen.

Macron will be inaugurated by incumbent president Francois Hollande on 14 May, at the Elysée palace, and is expected to name a Prime Minister and form a cabinet in the week that follows. During the campaign, Macron declared he “would like to name a female PM.” No sign of delivering on this promise has been sent since, and all of the most probable names circulating are men. But it’s safe to say that Emmanuel Macron’s Prime minister will probably be much more politically experienced than him.