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Macron Appoints Elizabeth Borne as PM, Will Help Him Face Challenges

macron at an event
French President  Emanuel Macron (AFP via Getty Images)

Mark L. Cohen By Thursday, 19 May 2022 12:39 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Worldwide attention focused on the French election victory of Emanuel Macron, a centrist candidate, who was seriously challenged by candidates on the extreme Left and Right.

His reelection was important first as an example of a European country struggling to maintain a centrist political direction faced with popular doubts and fervent opposition from both Right and Left parties that gained unprecedented support in the recent election.

In addition, Macron’s reelection has taken on added importance because he has a central role in organizing the NATO and European Union defense against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His in-person and phone contacts with Vladimir Putin has provided at the very least an open channel for an off-ramp for Mr. Putin.

The suspense and tension in the April election was palpable because of the center candidate’s electoral weakness. Candidates Melenchon from the Left and Le Pen and Zemmour on the Right won together 73% of the vote in the first voting round.

Macron won in the second round after eight of the nine challengers were eliminated, but his ability to lead the country depends on the success of parties loyal to him in the upcoming June legislative election.

The outlook for France following Macron’s less than convincing election result can be viewed from two perspectives.

One is that Macron, first elected to the presidency in 2017 was a total aberration in European politics because putting aside his young 39 years he had never been elected to a political office and his only credentials were as a golden boy in the French banking and political elites.

In addition, his victory in 2017 was essentially attributed to a political scandal during that election that removed a former prime minister and political favorite from contention. Once elected, President Macron basked in the limelight as a sort of superstar but failed at what had been his electoral promise to bring the traditional Left and Right political parties together.

This failure led to a surge in popular anger that at times turned into violent demonstrations by the Yellow Vests, the item they wore that was easily available because by law required to be kept in the trunk of each French vehicle.

The second perspective concerns less Macron himself than the fact that in France 60% to 70% of its electorate reject the political ruling class, with its monopoly on the very top political and industrial positions through graduation from the French Great Schools system.

Contrary to the United States where those fed up with the system grouped around Donald Trump, in France the term populism became the moving underlying force for parties and candidates at both ends of the political spectrum.

The challenge for Macron is to build a parliamentary majority that will remove the extreme parties from their ability to block legislation.

His objective, to improve the lower middle and working classes standard of living and at the same time free up business enterprise from regulation and taxation, is not an easy challenge in a world destabilized by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an alarming rise in inflation and at the same time the risk of economic slowdown,

Throughout the post war period the France political process teetered between the need for a majority consensus on the one hand and giving proportional representation to a variety of political parties on the other.

With the pre-World War II and post-war Third and Fourth Republics, proportional representation resulted in stagnation and instability leading to the Fifth Republic making France more governable but allotting fewer seats to the various minority parties.

Mr. Macron’s allies may win the opportunity to govern, but the losing Right and Left candidates not being able to seat their candidates in proportion to the votes received will cause them to be braced to build on anger of nonrepresentation that fueled the Yellow Vest movement and will continue to fuel the anger of those who consider that they have been left on the wayside.

The Left on the one hand believes that Macron will inevitably continue the policies that have increased the gap between the very rich and the popular lower middle and working classes. And many on the Right believe that everything will fall in place if France can be stopped in the transformation of the country by loose immigration protection and a lax criminal justice system especially toward immigrants representing somewhere between 6 million and 8 million North African Muslims.

Macron, having been elected as a disliked and minority president, has now named as prime minister Elizabeth Borne the daughter of a concentration camp survivor and the second female in history to hold the post.

He hopes that her experience in serving in several governments, including governments headed by socialists, will offset his image as being too close to big finance and the French elites and help him gain the confidence of a wider swath of the French population.

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l'EDHEC. Read Mark L. Cohen's Reports — More Here.

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He hopes that her experience in serving in several governments, including governments headed by socialists, will offset his image as being too close to big finance and the French elites and help him gain the confidence of a wider swath of the French population.
macron, france
Thursday, 19 May 2022 12:39 PM
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