European Union officials – most of them — are breathing a sigh of relief over center-right Emmanuel Macron’s solid presidential election victory over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen on Sunday, even if his margin of victory was lower than the two-thirds he garnered five years ago against the same opponent.
Without straying into an endorsement of one candidate over another, the policy reasons for that relief are clear; the re-election of Macron will allow the EU to stay united on its goals of support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, bolster defense capabilities, address climate change priorities while making the EU more self-sufficient on strategic materials, and tackle “rule-of-law” problem regimes from within.
Conversely, a Le Pen victory would have questioned curbs on imports of energy from Russia, sought to get France out of the NATO integrated command, and set national law above EU law to reverse European Union integration.
But it will not be all plain sailing for Macron and the EU yet.
Macrons’ policies, especially domestic policies, will be shaped over the next five years by the result of the parliamentary elections on June 12 and 19, often called the “third round” of the presidential elections, when the French electorate will choose 577 deputies to the National Assembly.
While Macron’s La Republique en Marche party might secure a majority on its own in these elections, it appears as things stand that he may have to enter in coalition with the far-left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Melenchon’s party, La France Insoumise, currently holds just 17 of the 577 Assembly seats, but with a strong 22% third place showing in the first round of the presidential elections, he is hoping to unify support of other voters from the left. Melenchon has expressed an ambition to serve essentially as an opposition Prime Minister if Macron were to be forced to invite him into the coalition, as has, incidentally, Le Pen.
They would make for strange bedfellows.
While much of the allegations of being pro-Moscow have been centered on Le Pen, the 70-year-old left-wing Melenchon is also often seen as both Eurosceptic and pro-Russia. While foreign policy is driven by the president, Melenchon is, not surprisingly, unenthusiastic about deeper ties with the United States or NATO. That includes his support for Russia’s position that Ukraine be kept out of NATO as well as on the need to treat Russia as a partner, rather than enemy state. On the domestic front, where he would wield more direct power, Melenchon would oppose Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 years to 64-65 and has clamored for a hike in the minimum wage.
Wary of the momentum Le Pen garnered in the second round of elections running largely on the back of concerns over citizens’ falling purchasing power, immigration concerns, and a feeling of estrangement from the decision-making process, Macron is signaling that he will try and avoid the image that he represents a ruling class that runs the government imperiously, and that he will consult more with the “common man.”
Whether that will propel Macron’s party into a majority in the National Assembly in June, where voters often opt for a political balance, and where the anti-Le Pen vote will no longer be a unifying factor behind Macron’s sails, remains to be seen.