Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday after a fiercely fought campaign. The 39-year-old former investment banker and politician is known as an advocate of the European Union. Macron worked as an Inspector of Finances in the French Ministry of Economy and in the commission to improve French economic growth. In 2008, he paid €50,000 to buy himself out of his government contract in order to work as an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque. From 2012 to 2014, he served as deputy secretary-general of the Élysée in the cabinet of outgoing President Francois Hollande and as Minister of Economy and Finance where he led business-friendly reforms. In 2015, Macron left the Socialist Party and became an Independent.
Initial vote estimates put him at having won between 65.5 percent and 66.1 percent of ballots ahead of National Front contender Marine Le Pen. The contest between Macron and LePen was largely seen as a referendum on the future of the European Union. Last year, Britain held a referendum that called for the country to pull out of the EU. LePen had run on a nationalist, anti-EU platform that demanded control of French and European borders. LePen had portrayed the election as a fight between Macron and globalists on one side, and herself and nationalist interests on the other.
Incumbent President Francois Hollande was the first to hold the office to announce that he would not seek reelection. Francois Fillon, a former prime minister who ran for president, was defeated.
Macron is expected to pursue a policy of cutting government spending, easing labor laws, boosting education, and extending protections to the self-employed. He will have to create a majority in the national parliament because he has no political party. His "neither of the left, nor right" En Marche political movement seeks to have candidates in all 577 constituencies of France. Last week, he said at a meeting in Albi, "We will reconstruct right to the end! We'll keep our promise of renewal!"
His economic agenda, which is expected to weaken labor regulations in order to encourage employment, is expected to be met with fierce labor union resistance. France is also in the midst of a continuing security crisis because of continued Muslim terrorist strikes.
The election was one of the most unpredictable and fractious in recent memory. Scandal ensued when hundreds of thousands of emails and documents were stolen from his campaign by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and leaked on Friday. Macron called it "democratic destabilization", while the French election authority said it was a criminal offense. Nonetheless, Macron’s opponents republished them widely.
On April 23, the first round of the presidential election found that Macron was the leader with 24.01 percent of the vote. Le Pen followed at 21.30 percent, in a crowded field of 11 candidates. Macron was the favorite of educated, wealthy urbanites, while Le Pen had support in the countryside as well as poverty-hit areas in the south and rustbelt northeast. Le Pen’s appeal and campaign had been frequently compared to the successful effort of Donald Trump.
Conciliation and change
In his victory speech on Sunday, Macron told members of defeated Le Pen's National Front that he understands their anger. He promised to make social policy and national security his priorities. He expressed respect for Le Pen and stressed national unity. “I know the divisions of our country that have driven some to the extreme. I respect them. I know the anger, anxiety, and doubts that many have expressed,” Macron said, vowing to look after the “most fragile” in society.
“France will be on the frontline of the fight against terrorism on its soil and in international action,” he added.
Macron said he understands that the people of France are “the heirs of a great history and a great humanist message to the world.”
Conceding defeat, Le Pen said her party will have to face a “profound transformation” in advance of parliamentary elections next month. Her performance in debating Macron was widely criticized. Her niece, Marine Le Pen -- who is a political force in her own right -- had said that her aunt should obtain at least 40 percent of the vote. However, the elder Le Pen fell short, having garnered but 34.5 percent to Macron's 65.5 percent. She admitted “The National Front must also renew itself,” when vote projections showed that she would lose to Macron. After the results were announced, she proclaimed, “I will t, therefore, start the process of a deep transformation of our movement … I call upon all patriots to join us.”
Her top aide, National Front Vice President Florian Philippot, said after the vote that the National Front's name will change as part of the transformation. A change had been discussed during the campaign but not acted upon. “Marine Le Pen said it clearly: the National Front will change,” said Philippot. “It’s going to change into a new political force which, necessarily, will not have the same name.” He had been an architect of the party's anti-EU plank. Le Pen said she will overhaul her party as part of a strategy to win as many seats as possible in June’s parliamentary election. Macron may have to mend fences with Le Pen in order to govern.
Americans and Macron
In the weeks before the May 7 vote, Barack Obama phoned Macron and had conversation with the candidate that was featured in a video. The act was seen by some as Obama's endorsement of Macron's candidacy. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the socialist who ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, is also an apparent fan. He tweeted after the results were announced that France had rejected "racism" and "xenophobia." American media outlets, such as CNN, depicted Macron as a "centrist" as opposed to "far-right" Le Pen.
Congratulations to the people of France who today, by an overwhelming vote, rejected racism and xenophobia.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 7, 2017