But although he appears to have won with a clear majority of 66% to 34% over right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, the figures are somewhat misleading. Only 20.7 million of France’s 47.5 million eligible voters (or 43.5%) voted for Macron. And a large majority of these votes were cast against Le Pen rather than for him. Some 16 million voters chose either to abstain or spoil their papers. And Le Pen’s 10.7 million votes equate to her having almost a quarter of all eligible French voters on her side. For a right-wing politician to make such large gains through a policy of scaremongering is both significant and alarming.
Parliamentary elections in June will be key
Macron has a mammoth task ahead of him. The most important and defining moment of his presidency will come in June with the French parliamentary elections. This is when we will see whether the French people will give their newly elected president the power he needs to implement his reforms, or leave him a lame duck. My hopes lie with the first scenario as it could be Europe’s last chance. We need a strong France as a counterweight to a strong Germany to stop the rise of populism on both the left and right. Macron’s socially liberal politics captures the spirit of our time. On the one hand, companies should not be overregulated, as the entrepreneurial spirit needs its freedom to prosper. On the other hand, we have to ensure that the weaker of our society also benefit of this prosperity in order to avoid further radicalisation— we need to close the gap between rich and poor.
European anthem as a sign of change
This balancing act will require plenty of political will and support from his citizens. Typically, the European anthem was played as Macron arrived to speak to his supporters at the Louvre yesterday evening — a clear sign to all Europeans that now is the time for change.