Macron plans for Europe, Brexit and banks but vague on France

Emmanuel Macron won yesterday’s election to become President of France for the next five years. He is photographed here speaking at a rally in Marseille. (Photo from en-marche.fr).

Emmanuel Macron, after yesterday’s quasi formality of the second round of the election, is the new President of France, having defeated Marine Le Pen by 65% to 35%. He commands the military forces of his country, including the not at all small nuclear arsenal of France, he appoints and dismiss the prime minister and can resolve the Parliament if he considers it necessary. Macron, a little known public figure only three years ago, when he was handpicked for minister of Finance by the outgoing President Francois Hollande, managed to eliminate one by one all the obstacles leading to the Élysée Palace.

He is a President without a political party though, without a clear cut political philosophy or positions, being chosen by less than one quarter of the electorate in the first round. He has been catapulted to eminence by an obscure system of media and personal affiliations, being a clear product of the new era in Western politics. Macron and those who backed him exploited the French electoral system of the two rounds and the certainty to beat Marine Le Pen at the end. The elimination of Francois Fillion was a major maneuver in this operation. It was not only the media that battered Fillion. The French state machinery and the judiciary were also employed officiously in this affair.

An easy victory

As for Marine Le Pen, there is not much to be told. She is the right wing Tsipras of France, having abundantly watered down to the point of no recognition her brutal ideology of xenophobia, racism and anti- Europeanism in order to come closer to mainstream politics. Tsipras, in 2015 after having won the July referendum, he reversed the 63% ‘oxi’ (no) vote to ‘nai’ (yes) and accepted the devastating terms of Greece’s creditors for more austerity, in order to retain his Prime ministerial position. Marine Le Pen has gone as far as to throw out her own father from the semi-fascist National Front party, which he created and delivered to her as dowry to an unemployed child. In any case, the French electoral system of the two rounds is expected to keep National Front away from positions of power for a long time yet.

Returning to Macron, searching the ways and means he used to win is not witch hunting, but rather an effort to understand where he stands and what IOUs he has signed. The operation to eliminate Francois Fillion is the key in this issue. It was the entire French establishment, including the incumbent President Francois Hollande that worked relentlessly in this direction. Despite the ostentatious enmity between the two men, Hollande pulled the strings to make Macron a king, after the elected Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, Benoît Hamon appeared to be too left wing for the mainstream French political scenery.

How did he do it?

The result was that Macron, without a party or clear cut ideology, is to occupy the Élysée Palace for the next five years. So, his credentials are the endorsement of the economic and media establishment of the country, plus a good part of the political elite. It was an obscure alliance formed to eliminate Fillion, reportedly with Hollande at the center of it, after the latter gave up his scanty chances for a second term in the Presidency. Fillion’s positive approach to Putin’s Russia may have played an important and quite negative role for his prospects to become President of France, thus facilitating the ascent of Macron.

So, yesterday’s winner of one the most important jobs in Europe and the world is a product of an elimination procedure, tailored on the logic of the French electoral system. His youth aura, his centrist and vague stance on a lot of burning economic and social issues, his backing of and from the European Union and his relentless electoral campaigning built a ticket which proved a winner. Now, what will his policies look like as the President of France?

What does he stand for?

For one thing, we know that he is a stout pro-European Union politician and a quiet but strong supporter of the financial sector of the economy. These two characteristics will position him on a collision course with Theresa May, the most probable winner of the other crucial election of 8 June, across the English Channel. The English Brexiteer government to be formed next month under May will be built along the political lines and with a mandate, on which the Tories are set to win a landslide electoral victory in four weeks from now.

Already, May has started a war of words. Last Monday, she told her compatriots that a united mainland Europe of 27 countries is threatening Britain, by trying to interfere in the electoral confrontation. Arguably, Europe is favoring those British political parties and personalities, who want a soft and amicable Brexit, that is, everybody else except the Tories. In many respects this is not a lie. Last week, the 27 EU leaders were unanimous in their readiness to respond to either a wild or an organized and smooth Brexit initiative, depending on what tune London decides to play.

Towards a bellicose Brexit

On top of that, the EU has focused on the immediate repercussions of the Brexit on everyday people. Brussels says that the British who live and work in the rest of the EU and the other Europeans who live and work in Britain shouldn’t become the object of ‘horse trading’, as the Brexiteers appear to machinate. The EU is also very worried with the borders of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic, the only land borders between the Union and Britain after the Brexit.

This lengthy presentation of the Brexit problems, in an article about the results of yesterday’s French Presidential election is quite warranted. It shows what Macron’s first 100 days in power could look like. He may have vaguely promised to put France ‘En Marche’, but this will take years to seriously undertake. On the contrary, his first decisions will certainly be related to the Brexit problems.

The battle of ‘La Manche’

Surely, he is to confront May on many fronts; her indifference, if not negligence, of the crucial financial side of the Brexit; her ultimatum to interrelate the future trade arrangement between the two sides with the present urgent issues and of course her rhetoric meant to cajole the ears of the hard core Brexiteer part of the public opinion. Predictably, Macron will firmly stand by Brussels in this affair.

As for Macron’s attitude towards Moscow, it should be seen as the opposite of what Fillion would have embraced. To be reminded that, at the time when Fillion won his party primary for the Presidential candidacy, Moscow had almost celebrated. Concerning Macron’s position vis-à-vis Trump’s America, his stand will be influenced by his affiliations to the French and in some ways global banking industry and also by his stout pro EU standing. For the same reasons, the Paris-Berlin relations are set to strengthen, because on both accounts, banking and Europe, Macron thinks France and Germany have a lot in common.

In conclusion, Macron’s positions outside France are not too difficult to envisage. It’s much more difficult though to foresee how he is to tackle the chronic malaises of the French economy, related to overregulation and the central control of a large part of the economy.

 

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