In times of changing perspectives, when even the survival of Europe is being questioned, Emmanuel Macron, a leader of a newly established party En Marche securing a leading position in the first round of French presidential election brings relief to liberals all over the world.
In the election held last week, of the eleven candidates, Macron and Marine Le Pen, the far-right contender and leader of the National Front are selected for the run-off on May 7, Sunday. The distrust and dissent of the people towards the present political leadership was reflected in the election. What was really conspicuous was that the people completely abandoned the conservative Republican Party and the Socialist Party dominated by the Fifth Republic that came into existence 59 years ago. The ruling Socialist Party came fifth with a meagre six per cent of the votes. One of the key issue on the table was the predicament of the European Union. Of the eleven candidates, eight of them were severe critics or opponents of the Union. The fact that they all together secured 49.6 per cent votes shows the standpoints of the changing times.
Macron campaigns for pro-EU policies. The 39-year old calls for an open border agreement among the member countries. Even when the anti-refugee and anti-immigrant waves hits hard across the region, Macron firmly stands against the tide. Despite this fact, the acceptance he gained among the educated and the rich voters is what landed him in the leading position. The belief that he clearly has something to offer in order to face the slogans raised by the far-right, might have inspired a large majority of voters to choose a fresher in politics. His statement that the presidential election was between the ‘patriots’ and the ‘nationalists’ is going to be meaningful in all sense in the approaching final battle. Macron who pledged economic revival and good governance secured 23.75 per cent votes while Marine Le Pen bagged 21.53 per cent. The performance of the National Front that has been actively present in the domain of French elections since 2002, wasn’t unexpected. Not only did US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin extend warm wishes to Le Pen, they also made public statements that the ‘terrorist attack’ in Paris two days ahead of the poll, would significantly influence the voters.
The far-right that came forward publicly against the refugees, immigrants and diversity engaged in poisonous campaigning of hate and Islamophobia. Despite their active presence in the almost all European countries, when the matter of transition of power arised, the voters once again proved their prudence. The people defeated the extreme right party in the presidential elections in Austria, last December. Power-hungry Geert Wilders who launched an aggressive campaign with his hardcore nationalism was beaten in the Netherlands parliamentary elections in March this year. In Britain, the only member of the UK Independence Party who was at the forefront of calling for the country’s exit from the EU was defeated in the parliamentary elections. Why doesn’t the voters in our country follow this trend of rejecting the resistive and regressive forces by the French voters even while they embrace alternative politics, is a highly relevant question. The far-right not only secure an increase in their vote share with every election but is also successful in establishing their authority outshining other parties in certain regions. This indicates the possibility of their grabbing hold of power today or tomorrow. Marine Le Pen bagged 7.7 crore votes in the first round. It was 6.4 crore in 2012. Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen with his hate politics came second securing only 4.8 crore votes in 2002 election. Political observers opine that the far-right entering the second round the second time is a stain on the secular democratic tradition of France.
As per the opinion polls, Emmanuel Macron is touted to easily win in the final round scheduled to be held on May 7. But many say that nothing could be predicted as of now. Majority of the parties defeated in the first round of the election have already decided to back Macron. He is predicted to bag more than 61 per cent of the votes. The question is whether a ‘liberal’ Macron would be able to gain further support in the parliament election that follows soon after.