Paris – It will be a short honeymoon for French President-elect Emmanuel Macron.
France’s youngest president faces the daunting task of reuniting a troubled and divided nation riven by anxieties about terrorism and chronic unemployment and ravaged by a bitter campaign against defeated populist Marine Le Pen. AP/UNB news agency reported
Monday will see protests in Paris’ Place de la Republique by unions who see the pro-business centrist and former Socialist economy minister as a traitor for threatening blue-collar worker protections with economic reforms.
In the Paris metro, an advertisement was defaced with the words: “Macron: Not even started, already hated.”
It’s nothing new.
Violent protests, anger, egg-throwing and heckling against the president-elect and his defeated, far-right rival Marine Le Pen disrupted their campaigns, which espoused two starkly opposed visions for the country.
Those who couldn’t stomach either protested with slogans reading: “Neither Fatherland, Nor Boss.”
The French are worried about the cultural, economic and religious impact of immigration and fear France’s ability to compete against giants like China and Google.
But the campaign’s nastiness turned voters off the candidates and their proposed remedies.
That, and left-wing frustration at Macron’s candidacy, triggered a sharp spike in abstentions and blank and spoiled ballots – representing 36 percent of the electorate.
The election was just the first hurdle. In order to govern properly, Macron’s fledgling political movement En Marche must now scramble together a majority in June’s parliamentary elections.
That won’t be easy.
Macron is the first president of modern France elected as an independent. Rivals who supported him against Le Pen in the presidential vote will be mobilized this time to defeat him in the parliamentary vote and elect their own party members to the National Assembly.
If another party wins a majority, Macron could be pressured to choose a prime minister from that party in a situation called “co-habitation.”
The overwhelming choice to elect pro-EU Macron as president of the eurozone’s second-largest economy has prompted relief, and even momentary serenity, across the European Union.
In his victory speech, Macron vowed to “rebuild the relationship between Europe and the peoples that make it,” and symbolically, Macron said German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the first foreign leader he will meet as president.
But the future stability of the 27-nation bloc is far from certain. Brexit negotiations could turn ugly or a populist vote in neighboring Italy might reject the EU.
The “France first,” anti-Europe message of Macron’s rival Le Pen, 48, struck a chord with great swathes of the country.
She campaigned to ditch the euro and hold a referendum on EU membership.
The task of Macron, who’s described himself as a “convinced European,” will be to show Le Pen’s voters resistant to Europe that he will follow through on his pledge to fundamentally reform the Union.
The French president’s position in Europe will also become more powerful when Britain leaves the EU in 2019, as France will become the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
With more than over 230 people killed in extremist attacks since January 2015, Macron needs to prove he has a robust plan to protect the nation.
The former banker launched his presidential campaign with a plan to tackle extremist attacks by obliging internet companies to release encrypted messages.
But he was painted as weak and inexperienced on security issues by Le Pen, whose plan to expel individuals on the security-threat list and stamp out Islamic extremism was core to her campaign.
Macron was criticized by Le Pen for advocating against stripping dual-nationals convicted of terrorist offenses of their French nationality.