May 08, 2017
A message of hope
This was the day when the electorate in France voted for a president on a mission to reform the eurozone, and when the tectonic plates in German politics shifted towards the party most likely to resist it. It is game-on in the discussion about the future of the eurozone, possibly the single most important political moment in the history of the nearly twenty-year-old monetary union.
Emmanuel Macron was elected with 66.06% over 33.94% for Marine Le Pen, according to the latest figures. With Macron, the French chose the anti-Trump: a young, pro-European reformer, who never held elected office before. Macron proved the impossible, and this in itself is inspiring. The message is one of hope and optimism, a Barack Obama moment for France.
The French also voted against Marine Le Pen and her populism, last minute attacks did not dent his victory. He did better than the polls predicted. Macron even won in six out of 14 municipalities with a mayor from the Front National, writes LeLab. Macron came first in 26044 communes, Le Pen in 9194, according to Le Monde.
What about abstentions? Jean Luc Mélenchon said last night that Le Pen de facto came in third, after Macron and those who chose the ni-ni, neither-nor. Looking at the numbers, a record high 11m who voted for Le Pen. There were 4.2m who went and voted blank, another record. Abstention was strong too with 26%. Mélenchon now counts on winning a majority in the legislative elections. Mélenchon is not the only opponent of Macron’s new movement, there is François Baroin with the Republicans, and of course the Front National.
Looking at the profile of the voters according to the Ipsos internet poll of over 4800 people between May 4 and 6, there are a couple of observations worth making:
- a majority of Mélenchon voters (52%) did vote for Macron in the end rather than abstain (17%); Among those who voted for Fillon in the first round, there were still 20% who chose Le Pen; Looking at the age profile, Macron received most votes from those 60 or older (over 70%) and the least from those aged 35-49 (57%);
- those who considered themselves to find it very difficult to live with their income voted for Le Pen (69%), those who find it difficult or easy Macron (61% and 79% respectively);
- Macron was the clear favourite in big cities (72%) and less so in rural regions (59%);
- the poll also shows that a majority (61%) does not want Macron to win a majority in the legislative elections;
- among the reasons of why they voted for Macron, 41% said to prevent Le Pen, a third voted for the political renewal that he represents, 16% for his programme and 8% for his personality;
- those who abstain, 31% reject both candidates, 28% don’t find themselves in their ideas and 16% consider their vote does not change a the fact that Macron was winning.
So this suggests that Macron has yet to convince with his project or with his persona. But this will be precisely the challenge he faces for the legislative elections. Alexis Brézet in Le Figaro writes that he will hardly succeed to get right candidates for his movement, as there is a real chance of winning for the Republicans. And while there is overlap in the programme, they are also attached to their social and cultural customs. To find a balance between reform and conservation will be the big challenge for Macron.
What next? Emmanuel Macron will take over as president May 14 and appoint a prime minister. Legislative elections will be on June 11 and 18, and his movement, which will now turn into a political party with the name La République en marche! will have to win 289 out of 577 seats in parliament to have a majority. There is not much time to convince candidates and voters ahead of the next elections. A co-habitation is well in the cards.
The first foreign leader to call him and congratulate was Angela Merkel. Wolfgang Münchau noted in his FT column that Emmanuel Macron is the first leader to his knowledge elected with an explicit mandate to fix the eurozone. While there is no guarantee that he will succeed - the process to reform the eurozone away from a muddling-through monetary union into a robust unified economy has to start right here - with the election of a leader who prioritises the issue. This is going to be a tall order - and it is only all to see to construct scenario in which he might fail. The contours of the first such scenario became visible yesterday during the state election in Schleswig-Holstein (more on this story below), in which the SPD lost the premiership, a setback for Martin Schulz, the German politician most sympathetic to the Macron agenda. Germany has explicitly rejected each of Macron eurozone reform proposals - the common fiscal space, and the common European finance minister, or at the least the kind that Macron has in mind. The only compromise that is likely to work will involve a combination of more fiscal discipline at national level - starting with France itself - in exchange for a common fiscal policy at eurozone level.