The first round of the French election turned out much as expected: the centrist Emmanuel Macron finished first, with 24 per cent of the vote, rather narrowly beating the right-wing National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who won 21.3 per cent. Barring a political accident of the type that befell the former frontrunner, conservative François Fillon, Macron will almost certainly win the second-round runoff against Le Pen on May 7. The European Union seems safe – for now.
With the pro-EU Macron seemingly headed toward the Élysée Palace – the establishment candidates on the right and the left who lost in the first round have already endorsed him – the immediate threat to the EU and the eurozone seems to have subsided. But this is no time for complacency. Unless Europe addresses flaws in growth patterns and pursues urgent reforms, the longer-term risks to its survival will almost certainly continue to mount.
And, as has often been noted, the French election, like other key votes over the past year, represents a rejection of establishment political parties: the Republicans’ Fillon came in third, with about 20 per cent of the vote, and the Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon finished fifth, with less than 6.5 per cent. Meanwhile, the left-wing Euroskeptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 19.5 per cent, putting the total share of voters who chose candidates of non-traditional parties – Le Pen, Macron, and Mélenchon – at nearly 65 per cent.
This article first appeared in Project Syndicate on April 29, 2017. The views expressed in the reports featured are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Asia Global Institute’s editorial policy.