Macron's Victory: Against the Backdrop of Geopolitical and Domestic Discord

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Baku, 22 May 2017 –

As Emanuel Macron, candidate of the centrist "En Marche'' movement that he himself founded, became the next French President, new questions have emerged within the expert community around the world. Some regard him as the European Union’s savior, while others argue that the political environment in the country is still far from clear. There is also an attempt to identify a connection between the French elections and the global geopolitics, including the political processes in the U.S. and Great Britain. Donald Trump’s victory, the Brexit and Macron’s election are seen as three developments that are somehow associated with one another. According to some analysts, it is about the change of substance in the Western politics in the post World War II era. They contend that the policy of double standards is an underlying factor for the political and geopolitical ambiguities. Nevertheless, the general understanding is that the outcome of the French elections will have a profound impact on global geopolitics.

Upsetting the Balance: France’s New Political Panorama

In terms of political and economic aspects, the latest presidential election in France produced more questions than answers. Experts agree that the election of Emanuel Macron was the rational outcome of somewhat contentious processes in the country in recent years. Indeed, they attribute this event to the disruption of balance in the international geopolitical environment. Among the factors that have a major impact they highlight the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the U.K’s Brexit. Trump’s victory is regarded as the protest of the masses against the political elite in America. And that contravenes with the traditional way of choosing the head of state in the U.S. When it comes to Brexit, it embodies an actual reversal of projections about Europe’s political integration.

Then there is another issue of global geopolitical relevance that the experts are focusing on – the North Korea issue. Deployment of the missile defense system by the U.S. discomforts China, provoking the former to take adequate measures across the region. All of that is a testimony to great shifts on the international scene. Yet the nature of those shifts is unclear and for the moment, it is challenging to make concrete predictions. Therefore, it is only natural that the very situation would affect the dynamics of the entire political setting in the West, including updating the game rules on the political scene in France.

Another peculiarity of the French elections this time around was the failure of major political parties to ensure the political survival of their candidate through the first round. The leaders of both then the ruling Socialists and the Republicans in the opposition were reduced to spectators in the audience. This aspect has to be appreciated in the context of features of economic, political and ideological processes happening in France in the recent years. France was struck by the economic crisis in 2007 and economy has entered into recession ever since. Unemployment has been on the rise and in 2017, the unemployed accounted for the 10 percent of the economically active population. The young generation was hit by the unemployment the most. Meanwhile, the people have become growingly preoccupied by the prospect of losing a job or becoming a victim of another terrorist attack.

That has undermined the confidence of the people with the traditional political parties and politicians. According to recent opinion polls, 89 percent of the people distrusted the political parties, 55 percent no longer believed the members of the parliament and 75 percent were displeased with the President Hollande’s performance. The society has become generally depressed. Some 29 percent of the respondents complained of fatigue, 25 percent were pessimistic and 31 percent completely lost their faith in tomorrow.

As a result, the voters trusted neither the ruling left (Socialist Party) nor the Centrists (Republican Party). The polls have drawn that sad picture for the political leaders. French Economy Minister, the 39 year old Emmanuel Macron left his post in autumn 2016 and founded the "En Marche'' movement under the theme of "neither the left nor the right”. He launched a process that ushered in an advent of a new political camp and ended the successive transfer of the presidency, where the Socialists and the Republicans have been taking turns in holding the highest office for the past several decades.

The elections of 2017 saw centrist Macron and the "National Front'' leader Marine Le Pen come head-to-head in the run-off. Yet there was one sensitive issue. The election of Marine Le Pen could bring about the dissolution of the European Union, whereas Emmanuel Macron is a committed European and a proponent of Atlanticism, capable of reinvigorating the EU. Macron vowed to solidify the EU and take the EU-France relationship to the next level. That being said, one of his preconditions has been the implementation of reforms within the EU. And there are two aspects here that merit the attention.

In the past two hundred years France has never seen a president as young as Macron. Moreover, it is another first for the country when the candidates of neither major political party make it to the second round of elections. Macron himself went on to found the centrist "En Marche'' – a resemblance to the developments in America; because there as well, Trump was initially running not as a Republican candidate. Those are rather unusual events in terms of the political fate of major parties.

Europeanism and Isolation: The Battle Continues

The country’s unification and consolidation of Europe are the two major tasks that await the new President of France. As we have already pointed out it is not just on the international scene but also within the individual countries that the political and ideological balance remains disrupted. Furthermore, let us not forget that the far-right Marin Le Pen represents the opposition in France – the very politician that claims that France belongs to the native French. That immigrants and especially the Muslim population must be alienated and treated as second-category citizens. And given that according to forecasts, some 40 percent of the population in France will be of immigrant origin in several years time; Le Pen’s political agenda brings about nothing but division.

Conversely, Macron advocates for France that is inclusive, regardless of ethnic or religious origins. Yet the National Front’s presence in the opposition disturbs the balance and the young president will hate to have Le Pen as his political opponent. This may provoke certain "Macronmania'' apathy in the political circles, no matter how bizarre it sounds. This notion implies accepting Emmanuel Macron as the only savior and thus, restricting his political leeway in advance. The French political circles are savvy enough to comprehend that.

These are the political realities of today and experts raise the following questions: "Why did such a rapid transformation of the political processes in the West take place? What were the underlying reasons? First thing that comes to mind are the multiple problems in Europe, the very Europe that likes to use democracy and human rights as its primary weapon. Those problems can hardly be resolved by the present political will and the political course in Europe. Perhaps it is even inconceivable.

Indeed, there is one aspect worth remembering. In principle, the notions of democracy and human rights have emerged after the WWII. And is it only Germany that has to be held accountable to tragic events of the 20th century, including the WWII? Certainly no. The responsibility rests with the Western mindset in general, and the policy of pursued double standards. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Macron is hailed as a savior for the West – he will attempt to preserve Europe. But is not it too late? One has to take into account the uncertain nature of the international processes and internal political developments within the large nations. Such circumstances complicate the situation and blur the choice of the best option.

In this connection, the experts are perplexed by the outcome of the victory of the two "saviors'' that do not represent any traditional political camps – Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron. Let us also not forget the disruption of centuries-long balance and mutual understanding in the Western societies. Such developments most certainly engender many problems in the Western world and produce thought-provoking questions about the ways of approaching those issues. The outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections in France this June is one of the eagerly anticipated ones.

According to the experts, the Nationalists’ victory could complicate the governance as there are no political parties to counter their weight. Marin Le Pen is already getting ready for that day. She has softened her rhetoric on the national issue and appears more focused on the anti-European sentiments. Yet all of that has not changed the substance.

This demonstrates that Emmanuel Macron’s second round victory with 66 percent of the votes does not necessarily imply elimination of all problems, neither in France nor across Europe. There are many challenges that lie ahead. If the ultra-Nationalists gain the parliamentary majority that would engender renewed risks to Europe’s future. There are not any other options as elsewhere around the world the large nations of the West continue to create a mess due to the policies they pursue. That is why Macron is probably not a ''savior'' but just another ''political pit stop'' for the Europeans to catch their breath. But what is next?

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