Emmanuel Macron Tries to Reinvent Himself After Re-election

PARIS – There have been many Emmanuel Macrons: the free market reformer, the man who nationalized salaries in response to the pandemic, the provocateur who declared NATO brain dead, the maneuverer who always adjusted his position, the diplomat and the disruptor.

Now, after persuading the French to re-elect him, something no president had achieved in two decades, what will Mr Macron show? Judging by his sober acceptance speech after his 17 percentage point victory over Marine Le Pen, an acclaimed.

There was nothing triumphal about his tone after he defeated the extremist anti-immigrant far right and, for the second time, fended off the wave of nationalist chauvinism that sparked Brexit and President Donald J. Trump’s victory.

Instead, Mr Macron expressed his quiet determination to break with past habits, address the “anger and disagreements” in the country and reach out to the many people who voted for him alone to replace Ms Le Keep the pen out.

“He will want to democratize and soften his authority,” said Alain Duhamel, the author of a book on Macron. “No metamorphosis in his personality, but there will be an adjustment in his working method.”

Mr Macron said his second term would not be “the continuation of the five years now ending”; it would be a “reinvented method” to “better serve our country and our youth”. The coming years, he said, “will not be peaceful, but they will be historic, and we will write them together for generations to come.”

Ambitious words, and Mr Macron, a centrist, is never looking for a pretty sentence, but what they will mean is uncertain. However, it is clear that the 13.3 million people who voted for Mrs Le Pen are far too large to be ignored.

For now, the president’s priority is to show compassion. He wants to bury once and for all the image of himself as “president of the rich” and show that he cares about the working class and about all angry or alienated people who are not only drawn to Mrs. Le Pen’s nationalist message, but also to her. they promise to give economic aid

The numbers were clear. As regards 70 percent of affluent voters supported Mr Macron† about 65 percent of the poor voted for Mrs Le Pen. The educated college voted for Mr Macron; those who didn’t finish high school tended to like Mrs. Le Pen.

Among the measures Macron can introduce at the start of his second term are a discount on petrol for people who have to drive long distances every day, significant increases for hospital staff and teachers and an automatic adjustment of pensions to rising inflation.

“We need to listen better,” Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, said in an interview with Franceinfo Radio. That is, listen to the laggards in an economy with a 7 percent growth rate.

Among those Macron should listen to are the young. While about 70 percent of people aged 18 to 24 voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a left-wing candidate with a bold green agenda, in the first round of the election, about 61 percent transferred their allegiance to Macron in the second round, after Mr. Mélenchon was eliminated.

If Mr Macron is serious about reaching out to those whose support for him has been reluctant – a second choice, a vote against something rather than for something – he will, after his first term on what often seemed like hesitant half measures.

In his victory speech, he promised to make France “a great ecological nation”. That will require major investments, a timeline and help for those transitioning to relatively expensive electric cars.

The road ahead is full of potential obstacles. Legislative elections in June could lead to a National Assembly no longer fully controlled by its party, complicating any second-term agenda. In the unlikely worst case scenario, Mr Macron may have to undergo a “cohabitation” – working with a prime minister from a rival party – and that is by no means a guarantee of happiness.

Whether Mr Macron can continue to adopt a less abrasive stance is uncertain. Duhamel described the president as a self-made man “in perpetual motion” and always on the offensive, one who “can never be pigeonholed”, a leader committed to ever-changing balancing acts — not least between left and right. .

His opponents often found this dexterity confusing; others have seen a manufacturability in it so extreme that it begs the question of what Mr Macron really believes in.

Macronism, as it is called here, remains a mystery. What cannot be disputed after this second victory is its political effectiveness.

If Mr Macron’s restless energy certainly persists, the French electorate has made it clear that it needs to be readjusted. They have had enough of an indifferent leader with daring plans to turn Europe into a real “power”; they want a president who is attentive to their needs as prices rise and salaries stagnate.

Many of them also want a democratization of the top-down French presidential system that Mr Macron had promised but failed to deliver. He may propose introducing an element of proportional representation when voting for the National Assembly or the lower house, Mr Duhamel said. This would happen after the vote in June.

The current two-round system has favored alliances of mainstream parties against extremist parties such as Ms Le Pen’s National Rally, formerly the National Front, resulting in a democratic split: a party can have broad support, but few representatives. This, too, has fueled anger in the country, both left and right.

When it comes to listening, Mr Macron may be obliged to extend that practice to his European interlocutors. The war in Ukraine has consoled Macron’s belief that a stronger Europe needs to be forged with its own military and technological capabilities to be able to compete in the 21st century world.

But his style – announcing dramatic goals for European ‘strategic autonomy’ rather than quietly building coalitions to achieve them – has not pleased everyone in a European Union where there is strong ties to NATO and US power, especially in the countries closest to the Russian border.

President Biden said in a congratulatory message to Mr Macron that he looked forward to working together “to defend democracy”. By defeating Ms Le Pen, with her strong attachment to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the French President has just made a remarkable contribution to that cause.

Macron will remain a strong supporter of multilateralism, the rule of law, the European Union and NATO that he hopes to reform to give Europe more room to develop its own defense capabilities. These are fixed points in his flexible beliefs.

He will also continue to calibrate his message even as he forwards it to the less fortunate. His goal, he said in the victory, was a “humanistic” France, but also an “enterprising” France, a France of “work and creativity” but also “a more just society”.

These code words right and left – entrepreneurship and justice – were the personification of Mr Macron.

SOURCE – www.nytimes.com

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