French expats celebrate in a Brussels bar on Sunday evening
As is all over the news, Emmanuel Macron beat Le Pen to win the French Presidential election with a larger than expected majority.
Much still remains to be seen, not least whether his En Marche movement can win enough seats in the upcoming Assembly elections in June.
But for now there is still time to acknowledge that, rather than pandering to the far-right, Macron fought an outward-looking, optimistic and openly liberal campaign. And won.
The votes are in and Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French Presidential election, pushing Le Pen into second place. This is good for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Le Pen has been pushed into second place. Hopefully, this means that far-right populism has hit its limit and it will be downhill for the FN from here on in.
Secondly, Macron is clearly the sanest choice standing. He is unambiguously pro-EU and committed to reforming it and is looking for practical and realistic reforms that would actually make a difference. This stands in stark contrast to the “make demands, throw tantrum” approach being touted by both the far right and the far left.
And, of course, being a centrist allows him to draw support from both the centre-left and the centre-right in the second round of voting on May 7th. Indeed, both François Fillon and Benoît Hamon have already urged their supporters to vote against the far right.
Of course, all of this means that Theresa May’s hard Brexit becomes both more likely and more painful.
In France, François Fillon is the centre right candidate for next year’s presidential election having beaten Alain Juppé by 67% of the votes against 33%. Given the rising tide of populism in both Europe and the US, this is more than a little concerning.
French elections have two rounds of voting. If no-one wins 50% of the vote in the first round, there is a run-off between the two leading candidates to decide the winner. With the French left in disarray (again), the polls point to the run-off being between tne centre-right candidate (Fillion) and and the FN’s Marine Le Pen.
The issue here is that Fillon is an outspoken Thatcherite who wants to take on the unions, shrink the public sector, abolish the 35 hour working week, and generally tip the French economy on it’s head.
As The Economist points out:
Plenty of voters on the left deeply dislike both Mr Fillon’s economic and social policies. Already Libération, a left-leaning newspaper, has splashed a photo montage blending his face with that of Thatcher on the front page. The country’s biggest union has warned that it will be on the streets if the centre-right wins. During the primary, Mr Juppé spoke darkly of the “brutality” of Mr Fillon’s economic programme. After his primary win, one Socialist deputy called it “violent and dangerous”.
The worry here is that in the second round of voting, left-leaning voters are going to find themselves being asked to support the Thatcherite in order to keep out the fascist. Faced with that choice, it is conceivable that many of them will stay at home instead.
And the US has just shown us how that turns out.