The world took a sigh of relief as a young new leader emerged from the 2017 French presidential election: Emmanuel Macron. It is important to note that, although the independent candidate passed by 66.1% vs 33.9%, this is still in no way a formidable win. The last time the Front National managed to get to the second round, it only managed to scrape 17.8% of the votes. This means that the Front National has over the past decades gained enormous popular support, and although they were not elected, their rising support should most certainly still be a major concern.
The French are held high as an exception in the recent populist waves, but it is crucial to understand that the outcome of the election, although not a catastrophe, cannot be made to look like a success. 9% of the population voted ‘blancs’ (when you vote for no candidate, but nevertheless vote), a reflection of the distrust in the current political landscape. Although a testament to the will of the known-to-be political French, this shows a lack of faith in both candidates that can simply not be overlooked. On top of that, one cannot assume that 66.1% of people who voted for Macron voted for him out of conviction but rather as a means to avoid the alternative. Although a bullet was dodged, one now has to face the reality that there is strong distrust between the population and the French government. Macron has been given the opportunity to lead the country and it is in France’s short-term as well as long-term interest for him to succeed; however, there need to be serious contemplations over some of his policies such as his lack of parity commitments as well as his lust for German approval. The following are those aspects of his policies to keep in mind while discussing this new leader in the aim to avoid future elections of the same nature as this one:
1 – Having no strong attachment to the right or the left, Macron represents a ‘new’ politician who, without the confines of a party title as well as traditional expectations placed on him, could manage to pass laws on the basis of this political ‘neutrality,’ thus having the left be more accepting of right-wing policies and vise-versa. In many ways, this could terminate the almost toxic dichotomy between left and right-wing parties and encourage political resolutions outside the confines of political structures. Appointing people who are not monopolizing political figures could galvanize a new wave of political reform, keeping in mind however that this should not be about switching ‘resident’ politicians with ‘resident’ economists.
2 – In his many speeches during the seemingly never-ending election, Macron outlined his want for equal representation of women in government as well at l’Elysée. This view, although disagreeing with his own 2014 view of sweeping gender equality, would have been a fantastic effort to promote gender equality (sadly, overtly overlooking intersectionalities). It is fair to say that the gender-balanced cabinet is a success for gender parity. Let us not forget that women in France are not only not a minority, but rather are a majority. It is therefore normal that the government represents these numbers. One can, however, detect a significant absence of women in Macron’s appointments in the last few days as president, for both senior advisor positions in L’Elysée and the key cabinet. What one can draw from this is a sense of will for progress yet not a full commitment to feminist agendas outside of political campaigns.
3 – An aspect of the debate that seemed to have been heavily overlooked was the man-splaining on Macron’s behalf towards Front National party leader, Marine LePen. Man-splaning is the act done by a man to explain something to a woman in a condescending tone rooting for sexist biases. It is more than understandable that Macron would show frustration with LePen due to diverging views as well as a mere response to her anti-democratic attitudes throughout the debate. It is, however, important to note that frustration with another candidate shouldn’t be addressed in a different manner because of their gender. Macron’s tackled his opponent through condescension and arrogance that can in instants appear to be what is often referred to as ‘mansplaining.’ Marine LePen presented ideas worthy of being shut down, but it is those ideas that needed rebuttal, not her capabilities based on her gender. Macron holding a piece of paper up and explaining basic political concepts to a woman that had been bred into politics was a concrete example of this. Macron should do well to remember this in his years in office and that being respectful to women in his entourage does not make up for sexist tendencies towards women who oppose him.
4 – Germany: Macron met with Angela Merkel on Monday. On one hand, it is understandable for a believer in a strong European Union such as Macron to want to strengthen relations between France and Germany; however, it is key for Macron to understand that in the first round of the elections he only had 23.7% of France’s support. One of the most significant criticisms, even outlined by LePen in the midst of the debate with the not-so-distinguished line “France will get a woman as president either way,” was the passivity of France towards leaders such as Angela Merkel. For Macron to have Germany as his first international visit is an absolute outrage. The first few days of power should not necessarily be about consolidating new European accords but rather about paying homage to the countries that have contributed to the success and well-being of France in its history, and looking at the past century, Germany does not necessarily make it to the top of the list.
Overall, Macron has the potential to do good; however, the issues with his presidency can be boiled down to the following: committing to his statements, respecting France’s sovereignty and not overlooking the general population to benefit a small proportion of the population.