Macron begins the second five-year period with the most difficult objective: to reconcile a divided France | International


There has not been a moment for euphoria in President Emmanuel Macron’s team, despite being comfortably re-elected on Sunday against far-right rival Marine Le Pen. The centrist Macron prevailed with 58.54% of the vote against 41.46% for Pen, the third largest victory in the history of the Fifth Republic. But no matter: there is no desire to celebrate.

Because the task that the victor imposes on himself is almost impossible: to reconcile a France divided by deep fractures. And prevent the discomfort that has been expressed in the vote for the extremes or in the largest abstention in half a century from being transferred to the street and ruining the new five-year term, and the presidential legacy. “Friends, we must be kind and respectful, because our country is full of so many doubts, so many divisions”; Macron said on election night. “So we will have to be strong and not leave anyone by the wayside.”

The results of the first round of the presidential elections on April 10, which was attended by 12 candidates, and the second on April 24, in which Macron and Le Pen faced each other, are an accurate picture of this fractured France. The “archipelago”, as political scientist Jérôme Fourquet defines it, is made up of regions, communities and individuals who turn their backs on each other and understand each other less and less. Rich and poor, city and country, educated and uneducated, old and young. “The opposing parties have become chemically pure, like a diamond: the social, cultural, geographical and generational fractures have deepened,” says geographer Christophe Guilluy in a telephone interview. “[En los resultados electorales] we find the class conflict that is invisible for five years and that resurfaces at the time of the elections, as if the presidential ones were a prick that awakens us to the social and cultural reality of the country. And we know that, after the presidential elections, this window will close again, since the popular classes are not going to vote in the intermediate elections”.

The secession of urban elites

Guilluy has spent years diagnosing the failures that run through French society. It was he who coined the concept Peripheral France: that of the villages and small and medium-sized cities disconnected from the circuits of globalization, the France that feels despised by urban elites who, according to the geographer, have declared “secession” from the rest of the country.

In these elections, Macron was the candidate of urban France, and also of the prosperous rural and urban regions of the French West. Le Pen, the candidate from peripheral France. She was the France of the revolt of the yellow vests, which marked the first five years macronist. And, according to Guilluy, it will be the France where, if the president does not remedy it, the revolts that mark his second and last term will break out.

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“We must not forget that all social movements, for 20 years, have come from peripheral France,” says Guilluy, who compares these phenomena with the voters of Donald Trump in the working-class regions of the United States, or Brexit. And he adds: “We don’t know what form the answer will take now, but I am convinced that it will appear.”

April 2022 during Emanuel Macron’s campaign visit to Denain, northern France, where he was received with the vests that protesters against his government wore in 2018. LUDOVIC MARIN (AFP)

The re-elected president faces, for now, a more urgent concern: the formation of a new government that will have to prepare the campaign for the legislative elections on June 12 and 19. The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, plans to present his resignation in the coming days. Among the pools to replace him, names such as the Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, or the head of Labor, Élisabeth Borne, from the Social Democratic wing of the macronism. They are technocrats with little political profile, unlike another of the names that the French media have put into circulation: Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank.

The composition of the new government will give clues as to whether Macron’s progressive turn in the campaign was just a tactic to capture the vote of left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Or if, on the contrary, these weeks were a foretaste of the “new method” with which Macron 2 intends to govern after five years with conservative prime ministers and center-right policies. “The new era”, Macron promises, “will not be that of the continuity of the five-year period that is ending, but that of the collective invention of a refounded method for five better years at the service of our country, of our youth”.

Macron has not specified what the new method will consist of, but has promised that “ecological planning” – a concept borrowed from Mélenchon – will be central. And he has indicated that he will consult and negotiate major reforms, such as pensions, with the unions, whom he despised during his first term. He also wants to resort to consultations and conventions and debates with citizens like the ones he organized after the yellow vests revolt. The immediate priority of Macron 2 it is the increase in purchasing power, a key issue in Le Pen’s campaign.

double restlessness

All these initiatives are based on a double concern. First, the concern about the disconnection with the popular classes and the workers, who have chosen Le Pen. And second, because of the image of an arrogant leader who governs from the top down, without consulting or listening: the command and command typical of the Fifth Republic.

The institutional architecture poses another problem when it comes to stitching together a fractured France. What will happen if, as in the 2017 legislative elections, Le Pen’s party does not obtain even 10 deputies after receiving a few weeks earlier, in the presidential elections, more than ten million votes (now 13.3)? There is a problem of representativeness when, due to the majority electoral system with two rounds, the second force in the country is not in the institutions.

“The electoral campaign has been quite evanescent, and has not served as an escape valve or cathartic purge of the tensions that are going through the country,” he says in The Figaro Fourquet, the “archipelago” political scientist. “Therefore, we must fear that these will not find an outlet in the hemicycle, but in the street.”

“The wall of reality will be imposed on Macron,” Guilluy predicts. And he warns of the political risk, too, if he doesn’t act on time. “After five years of macronism, the extreme right reaches 42%, which is considerable if one considers that it is a demonized party. If nothing is done, tomorrow it will be 51%. It’s mechanical.”

Second terms are an opportunity: the president is no longer a parenthesis and can leave a mark. But also a trap: the second terms of office of Charles de Gaulle, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac “did not leave an imperishable trace in memory”, writes the director of The FigaroAlexis Brezet. “They ended badly,” he adds.

Macron, winning for the first time five years ago, declared: “I will do everything so that, in the next five years, there will no longer be any reason to vote for the extremes.” But the extremes have risen. The success or failure of the Macron decade, if it ends badly or well, if it leaves an imperishable trail or not, it will also end up being measured in case, this time, it stops the extreme right. And calm the country.

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