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On May 7, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron became France’s youngest leader since 35-year-old Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor in 1804. The former economy minister is also the first president in modern French history who does not belong to the country’s two mainstream political parties — the conservative Republicans and the left-wing Socialists. Macron, who quit the government in 2016 to form Centrist party “En Marche!” (“On the Move”), identifies himself as a radical outsider and promises to overhaul the country’s “failing” political system and revive the shrinking economy.
His main opponent, Marine Le Pen, a member of the Front National, a far right-wing and nationalist political party, also does not belong to either of the traditional parties that have historically controlled French politics. However, while also anti-establishment, Le Pen ran on a far more aggressive platform, vowing to stop immigration and promising to reserve public services, including jobs, welfare, and housing for French citizens. If elected, she also pledged to hold a referendum to allow the public to determine if they, like the British, wished to exit the European Union.
As it turns out while the people of France were seeking a change, they were not ready for Le Pen’s drastic measures. On May 7, Macron emerged the clear winner receiving a landslide 66 percent of the votes compared to the 34 percent cast for his opponent.
Macron, who will be sworn in on May 14, knows he faces some formidable challenges as he sets about fulfilling his campaign promises. Shortly after his win, the newly-elected leader told the large crowd of fans that had gathered at the Louvre Museum in Paris, “The task that we’re facing is enormous...we will have to look at aspects related to public life...to refound our Europe and ensure the safety of all French people. You have chosen audacity and this audacity, we will pursue it every single day.”
A lot of what Macron will be able to accomplish during his five-year term depends on the outcome of next month’s parliamentary elections. Though En Marche! has candidates in all five hundred and seventy-seven constituencies, it is unclear how they will perform given that both the party and its leader are untested. If the Socialists and their allies, which currently have a majority in the National Assembly, get re-elected, Macron is likely to face some opposition as he tries to implement his vision.
However, those are concerns for the future. For now, the world is celebrating the election of the centrist young president, who is being dubbed the French Bill Clinton or Tony Blair (both considered boy wonders), and the defeat of right-wing extremism.
Resources: dnaindia.com,thesun.co.uk, quartzmediaLLC, BBC.co.uk