Macron’s triumph does not give him a political mandate.
Relief! That’s the widespread European sentiment after the reelection of Emmanuel Macron as president of France. The Europhile tenant of the Élysée Palace garnered 58.55% of the vote against his far-right adversary, Marine Le Pen, who lagged 17 points behind him. The victory won high praise from Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and others. “Your tireless dedication,” said Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, “will be much needed to tackle the challenges.” Macron is pushing for economic reform and fighting climate change, while France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. He is also “a true friend of Ukraine,” declared president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had concerns about Le Pen. She had, until very recently, showed a close relationship with Vladimir Putin.
“Markets have been spared the shock and uncertainty that would have sent them into a tailspin should Le Pen have won,” emphasizes Nigel Green, CEO of the deVere Group financial consultancy.
Nevertheless, Macron’s triumph does not give him a blank check. The 28% abstention rate is the highest in 50 years for a French runoff presidential race, and the 41.45% Le Pen vote was enormous. France is “so fractured” that, more than ever, “kindness” is needed, declared the appeasing Macron, as he promised to support anxious consumers with a relief package as soon as this summer. To buttress purchasing power, pensions will be adjusted to inflation, and energy subsidies on gas and electricity will be extended—as well as occasional assistance at the fuel pump. Companies that perform well will be encouraged to share profits with employees or pay them a bonus. When the Yellow Vest revolt developed, the French president created an up to €1,000 (about $1,057) tax exempt bonus for low wage earners. He now will expand that to €6,000.
Then, there is the delicate issue surrounding the retirement age. Macron has been pushing to extend it from 62 to 65. To implement his programs, the president still needs to win what the French call the third round, the coming parliamentary elections in June. His opponents on the left and the right are already campaigning.