The ingenuity which saw Napoleon Bonaparte become the commanding general of French armies at 30, and emperor five years later, in the 19th Century, must have propelled Emmanuel Macron to become the president of France at 39 in 2017. Macron’s dizzying political fortune has few parallels. He is the youngest president in French history and the youngest head of state since Napoleon.
We commend him on his brilliant, audacious campaign and congratulate him on his emphatic victory over his National Front opponent, Ms. Marine Le Pen. Macron has demonstrated that in spite of the upswing of populism, internationalism still has many adherents. Despite all the fears of nationalism, even in spite of Brexit, the idea of the European Union is not wavering as feared. Macron campaigned unabashedly with the European flag. He was not ambivalent about Europe: his love for the European Union was unconditional. Not even a massive attack on him by certain segments of the Russian media could stop his landslide of over 66 per cent of the vote. In contrast, his opponent, Le Pen, had proposed measures to pull France out of Europe, and out of the Euro-zone, and an agenda to restrict immigration into France to 10,000 a year.
Macron’s victory has brought a big sigh of relief in Europe. The message from the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker; the congratulatory message from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the message of goodwill from former US President, Barack Obama, who openly endorsed his candidacy, in addition to other supporters of the European Union, speak volumes about the extent of international goodwill Macron should expect. The young president was sworn-in on Sunday. His trip to Germany less than 24 hours after his swearing-in attests to his unequivocal support for the European Union and underscores his promise to make the reformation of the Union a major plank of his political agenda. There is no doubt he would find a sympathetic ally and a willing ear in Chancellor Merkel who has had to deal with three previous French presidents, and who never hid her support for him throughout his campaign.
Macron took over the reins from President Francois Hollande, who seemed so unpopular that he passed up the opportunity to seek re-election. Macron has never held an elective office. Indeed, a year ago, he barely had name recognition even in France although he was a minister in the government of President Hollande. That he is president today was unimaginable a year ago.
This should encourage aspiring but confident Nigerian politicians who genuinely want to serve the country but are not enamoured of the present crop of political parties in the country. They can, like Macron, found political movements that can later seek registration as political parties and make a bid for the Nigerian presidency.
Macron’s political adventure has been likened to that of former US President, Barack Obama. But Obama was more exposed, having been elected a state senator, and later as US senator, before he made a bid for the presidency. Macron resigned his membership of the Socialist Party only nine months ago. His political movement, the centrist liberal En Marche! was only founded in April 2016.
We think he put the right foot forward in his trip to Berlin on Monday and was accorded a spectacular reception with singing and dancing befitting a beloved celebrity by the Germans. He also rose to the occasion by clearly expressing his ambitions, his agenda and an honest appraisal of the problems he must face, including the high rate of unemployment in France. He proposed a less bureaucratic Europe, mass employment in France (which eluded his predecessors), pragmatism and realism and a common roadmap for the EU to make positive impact on EU citizens. He seems hopeful that a Franco-German cooperation would be good not only for Europe but also for both France and Germany.
We think Macron has his priorities right. Given his youthful energy and new thinking which informed his appointment on Monday of a young prime minister – the 46-year old Edouard Philippe, the Mayor of Le Havre, a popular politician from the centre-right faction of Les Republicains, the party led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy until last year, Macron may once more triumph where others have failed. His plans for the National Assembly elections justify his reaching out to the centre-right, and since he is a centrist, he should also be able to attract the votes of his former fellow travellers, the Socialists, to gain the majority he needs to govern effectively.
He has allocated half of all the seats to women, a most adroit game plan. And, it has been said also that 52 per cent of those who applied as candidates for his party La Republique En Marche never held elected office. If he runs the legislative campaign with the ingenuity he deployed in the presidential race, and given that the two traditional parties seem prostrate in this cycle, he is likely to repeat his presidential performance, thereby consolidating his power and his mandate. We wish him the best of luck.