Last week we told you about the stakes in the French presidential election. Europe awaited the results last Sunday with bated breath, as the election promised to have major implications for the future of the European Union and the general trajectory of French politics. Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a landslide. Macron’s win is viewed by many as a victory for the status quo and a rejection of the right-wing populism that propelled Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory.What does this mean for France?
The election pitted two visions for the future of France against each other. Le Pen’s criticism of Islam and globalism contrasted with Macron’s support for the European Union and open immigrant policy. Le Pen’s socially conservative views on issues such as same-sex marriage lost to Macron's more centrist policieis. A supporter of liberal markets, Macron has proposed to deregulate the French labor system that some blame for the country’s high unemployment rate. While Le Pen’s National Front suffered defeat on Sunday, the party received more votes in this election than they have in any prior election. Supporters of right-wing populism still exist and the Macron administration must handle the concerns of these disaffected voters. France has a 10 percent unemployment rate, multiple terror attacks have struck the country and the image of the major political parties crumbled before the election, causing tensions and disillusionment with the government. There will also be a legislative election next month and groups to both the left and right of Macron's party have promised to challenge him.What does this mean for the rest of the world?
The results of the election bode well for the European Union – for now. Macron’s economic policies have pleased European financial markets that support liberalization and a healthy European Union.
The strengthening of the European Union hurts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to gain more power in Europe. Putin met with Le Pen, who indicated that she was open to stronger relations with Russia, while Russian state media attacked Macron and questioned his sexuality.
The National Security Agency confirmed that Russia hacked France’s election infrastructure. Many believe that this hacking attempt leaked emails from the Macron campaign that appeared publicly two days before the election. Many drew parallels between this email leak and the the email leak that Hillary Clinton’s campaign suffered during the U.S. presidential election, which some believe was committed by Russian hackers. This could be evidence of Russian attempts to influence elections and a sign that Putin wants to help elect leaders that are more favorable to him.
Overall, the French presidential election was a victory for Pro-European forces. However, the new French parliament may be resistant to the political outsider Macron’s policies. While the far right has suffered its third defeat in Europe after losses in Austria and in the Netherlands, they have become more competitive in European elections. Pro-European governments still need to make the case for the European Union and globalism to those that voted for far right candidates.