On Sunday Emmanuel Macron embarks on a five-year term as President of the second largest EU country. An overwhelming two-thirds of those casting a valid ballot – and a sizeable 42% of all eligible voters – backed him. French people are weary of the political system, as manifested by the demise of the traditional centre-right and centre-left parties. While France faces several problems, its economic and social model is far from the basket case that it is often made out to be by those antithetic to a large public sector and who want more liberté and less égalité et fraternité.
Nonetheless, the fact is that without external support Macron and his La République en marche! Movement/party will fail. The reasons for this are not the superficial ones linked to the candidate himself. His youth and inexperience are not the issue. He may lack a party machine but he does not need a parliamentary majority for the party emerging from his movement. I would be surprised if he fails to put together a working-majority coalition between centrists and the right wing of the social democrats (PS) and the left wing of the conservatives. With the PS pulverised and the Republicans demoralised, I don’t anticipate any shortage of takers.
His problem – and it is very much Europe’s problem – is rather that his programme is very unlikely to work electorally under prevailing circumstances. Essentially, ‘Macronism’ consists of a two-handed, and supposedly joined-up, strategy. At home, ‘structural’ reforms to increase competitiveness and stimulate growth, along with moderate fiscal consolidation to reduce government debt levels. In Europe, far-reaching changes to economic governance in the direction of a step-change in political integration, driven by a new and equal partnership between that old two-cylinder motor: Germany and France. The alleged link is that the efforts to strengthen France domestically will force Germany to recognize it as an equal partner, while falling debt levels reduce the perceived risk to German policymakers of pooling sovereignty.
There are many reasons why this sensible-sounding approach is highly unlikely to work, unless external conditions change for the better. [Read more…]