Macron Wins French Election

A Professor's Perspective On Current Events

Image of Professor Ann Williams, Ph.D.
By Professor Ann Williams, Ph.D.

Emmanuel Macron has won with a wide margin of French votes. What will this young president do for France? 

Emmanuel Macron won the 2017 French presidential election with 66 percent of the votes cast. France is moving forward and Macron’s newly renamed party La République en marche is quickly positioning itself for the future.  But in what direction is it headed?  This election marked a significant change in the way French politics functions and Macron is certainly forward-thinking, but will his approach not fly in the face of philosophical tenants and deep-rooted cultural values that have been safeguarded throughout France’s history?

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Just after the election results were announced, a visibly moved Macron reiterated his belief that France can carry forward the ideals of the French Republic while participating fully in a world where the political and economic climate seems to some to contradict the humanistic tradition of France and the torch of the Enlightenment. If he is allowed to move forward as planned, France will continue to expand its role as an active member of the European Union and the global marketplace. At the same time, Macron will need to foster economic growth and security in France and pay particular attention to segments of the population who are frustrated at their present situation and fearful for the future.  One example? The high unemployment rate for young French people is clearly unacceptable, from both an economic and an ethical standpoint and it is imperative that Macron resolve this and similar issues if his five years in office are to take France in a positive direction.

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European Union flag

The slogan on the podium as Macron took the stage for the first time as president-elect read “Ensemble, la France”, roughly translated as “France Together” or perhaps “France as One”.  Macron recognizes the diversity of France and the diverse needs of its citizens and knows that various parties, factions, and movements must work together to move France forward.  Although there is cause to be optimistic it is not to be dismissed that some who voted for Macron were, in fact, voting against far-right candidate Marine le Pen (who received 33.9 % of the votes) and that the abstention rate was the highest it’s been in almost 50 years.

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So despite the strong majority vote and although the inauguration ceremony will indeed pass the power of the Presidency to Macron on May 14, the real direction France will take remains difficult to foresee. Under the constitution of the Fifth Republic, Macron needs to gain a majority in the Assemblée nationale in order to govern most effectively and negotiations have most certainly already begun in order to garner the support of both the traditional center-right and of the left.  As France moves toward these parliamentary elections in June, Macron and his party will need to put “Ensemble, la France” in the very center of their initiatives.  The democracy that is France spoke out for Emmanuel Macron this past week.  Next month we’ll see what else France and the French have to say about the future of their country.

For more with Professor Williams, check out “Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures” on the Great Courses Plus!