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Huge vote of confidence for Macron

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
Barbara Wesel
June 12, 2017

President Macron is on course to win a significant majority in parliament, pushing the old established parties to the backbenches. It marks the start of a political revolution in France, says DW’s Barbara Wesel.

Frankreich Staatspräsident Macron wählt in Le Touquet
Image: Reuters/C. Petit Tesson

Unlike in the UK, French pollsters have correctly predicted the trend, with new French President Emmanuel Macron on course to win a significant, possibly even a landslide majority in parliament. His success is historic, exceeding all expectations. Never before in a Western democracy has the leader of a political movement of his own making risen so quickly to power.

Macron-mania firmly taking hold

The French people have had exactly four weeks to observe their young new president in office. He's taken to the role as adeptly and instinctively as someone with decades of political experience. Whether it was taking on US President Donald Trump's notorious handshake or standing his ground with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron the newcomer easily emerged as the victor.

Macron's response on Twitter (where else!) to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal perfectly captured the mood of the online community: "Make our planet great again" - a not-so-subtle dig at Trump's campaign slogan - instantly went viral. You have to congratulate Macron's social media team. The French people have been watching their leader closely these past few weeks, and they like what they've seen. His successful international appearances have created a proper Macron-mania. The financial markets are counting on him, as is the German chancellor. And now, the people of France are rewarding him with a massive vote of confidence.

Now the real work starts

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
DW's Barbara Wesel

Macron is in the honeymoon phase, after returning a sense of glamour and importance to French politics in the wake of the rather miserable years under Francois Hollande. But now, the real work starts. He needs to score a few quick policy wins, particularly with regard to the labor market. And he needs the help of the German government to loosen some of the financial binds of the eurozone. Because Macron is planning nothing less than a total reform of France's rigid structures. Whether taxes, education, administration, the justice system, or the state of the country's suburban zones, Macron has a dozen political problem areas to tackle. And when he does, he'll have to prove that he's not just charming and sure-footed in dealing with his international counterparts, but that he has the willpower and determination to see his plans through, and not be intimidated by the powerful leftist unions. 

The political reality in Paris over the next few years will be tough and dirty, and far less glorious. After next Sunday's second round of voting, Macron will have secured a giant electoral victory, but that's when the actual battle will start. 

Revolution in French politics

France's traditional mainstream parties are falling to the wayside in this vote. The Socialists look set to shrink from their former parliamentary majority to just a few dozen seats - an obliterating blow. Marine Le Pen and the Front National have been served a reality check. After flying high as a presidential candidate, it now looks as though she will not even be able to pass the 15-seat threshold to form a parliamentary group. The extreme left will shrink to the same number of seats that it has always had.

The big losers will be the Conservatives. Four weeks ago, they were still dreaming of a parliamentary majority in order to put the reins on Macron. Now they will merely be the biggest opposition party, likely sparking a deep identity crisis.

This revolution of the French political scene is both astonishing, and somehow refreshing. There will be a host of new faces in parliament - lots of women, people from the business sector and civil society. France has a tendency toward revolution every 100 years or so, whether big or small. It's something that is freeing, even if it is not without peril. Emmanuel Macron must now keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, listen intently, work hard, and not be carried away by his own success. He has been given this big vote of confidence, but he must now show us what he can do with it. The opposition is weak and will not be able to do much to stop him. Time will tell just how mature and clever this young new president really is.

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