Introducing Emmanuel Macron

Macron won more than twice the number of votes than he was expected to win, writes Richard Swift

ack in May, those running the European Union breathed a great sigh of relief as the French presidential election results poured in and the charismatic, 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron easily beat back the xenophobic populist challenge of the far-right Front National and its leader, Marine Le Pen.

In the end, Macron won more than twice the number of votes, having rallied his forces around the idea that he was an outside challenger to the corrupt French political class. His new party, En Marche, appealed to voters fatigued by conventional coalitions that had become virtually indistinguishable once in office.

Now, with a majority in the National Assembly, Macron is in a position to fulfil his promises. So far results are mixed: on the positive side, he promises to slash the bloated French military; on the other, he continues to push labour ‘reform’ which would mean a loss of 120,000 public-sector jobs. Plans for a new, ‘flexible’ work regime could also come to fruition, which would threaten union power in order to encourage private investors.

France’s reputation as one of the more ‘ideologically divided societies’ was masked by Macron’s success in promoting a pro-market programme as a transparent anti-corruption vision, standing above partisanship. But his cloak is already fraying at the edges. Since the election, he has tumbled more than 10 per cent in the polls and is faced with a militant trade union movement and a population prone to take to the streets when it thinks its rights are in danger.