So it turned out that the French will have to trust Emmanuel Macron as their President for the next five years. In the run-up to the Presidential elections, it was, more than ever in the history of the Fifth Republic, all about trust.
Rarely has a campaign been marked by so many affairs, on all sides of the political spectrum. It started with Emmanuel Macron, accused of organising a trip of the French Tech in Las Vegas without any public tender beforehand, shortly followed by accusations of fake employment and misuse of public funds by centre-right candidate François Fillon and the far-right Marine Le Pen.
This accumulation of scandals, to the detriment of in-depth discussions on the candidates’ programmes and vision for the future of the country, left the electorate with a bitter taste. It also led to an unexpected result in the first round of the election, with a candidate who does not belong to an established party finishing far ahead of both the traditional right and left in terms of votes.
Despite this context, the election of Emmanuel Macron, a newcomer in French politics and the youngest President of the Republic since the creation of the role, does not come as a complete surprise. Since Nicolas Sarkozy’s term (2007-12), French citizens have long been awaiting a providential person, man or woman, who can shake up the established order and provide them with a long-term vision of the economy and society.
Macron, who wishes to reconcile the French no matter what their political beliefs, to integrate France fully within the new European and global order, to seize the opportunities brought by the digital economy and to continue to liberalise some traditionally privileged sectors, appears to many as this extraordinary person.
Moreover, despite criticism that he never held any high-level political office, Macron already has a brilliant professional career behind him, with experience in both public and private sectors (he worked as an investment banker for Rothschild &Co). Before running for President, he was a special advisor to Socialist President François Hollande and Minister for Economic Affairs, who already steered through laws liberalising some key sectors of the economy such as transport and services but also sought to make France a leading player in the world’s digital economy.
Looking at his programme, Macron was the candidate who spoke the most about the benefits of the European Union and the digital economy. He proposes, inter alia, to provide access to high-speed Internet for all and to generalise e-Government and open data as well as e-Health. He also calls for a “favourable” fiscal framework that will boost investment and innovation. Moreover, at European level, Macron not only advocates the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy but also, and probably less realistically, the renegotiation of the EU-US Privacy Shield by 2018. He also envisages the establishment of a European agency digital trust, which would be responsible for regulating the big digital platforms, as well as for a tax on profits made by companies providing digital services in European countries. On the bigger picture, his European programme includes measures to enhance citizens’ trust in the European project, to create a separate Eurozone budget for promoting investment and buttressing recovery from the 2008 crisis, to approve a Buy European Act favouring European companies producing half of their output on European soil and to enhance the mobility of students throughout the EU and the world.
Beyond this appealing picture, the new President is fully aware of the challenges ahead of him. In the short term, without an established political party backing him, he must secure a parliamentary majority behind him and his movement “En Marche” in the legislative elections of 11 and 18 June. Without a strong majority backing his programme, all the above-mentioned measures would prove difficult, if not impossible, to put in place. In addition, his choice of Prime Minister and Government on 15 May will be crucial in advancing his prospects for building a workable majority in parliament.
Will the magical Macron effect survive the next 35 days or so despite the gloomy predictions of political analysts?