Non-Career Politician Emmanuel Macron Wins French Presidential Election

May 8, 2017
Originally published on May 8, 2017 7:28 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So much symbolism to be seen this morning in Paris. World War II ended in Europe 72 years ago today, and side by side at this morning's commemoration, the past and the future - France's president and France's president-elect. Emmanuel Macron won yesterday's presidential election in France. At 39, he's the youngest president in French history. He spoke before tens of thousands in front of the Louvre Museum last night. Here he is translated on France 24.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) Europe and the world are waiting - are waiting for us to defend everywhere the spirit of the enlightenment that has been come under threat in so many different places.

GREENE: OK. Let's talk about France's next president with Benjamin Haddad. He's a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, an independent think tank in Washington. He's also an adviser to President-elect Macron, a member of his campaign team. Good morning.

BENJAMIN HADDAD: Good morning.

GREENE: So let me ask you one big question a lot of people have about this election yesterday. How much of this was a vote for your candidate Macron, and how much of it was a vote against his opponent, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen?

HADDAD: I mean, it's clearly both. But, you know, (unintelligible) Mr. Macron, right, first in the first round as well, well ahead of Marine Le Pen. But I think it was also an indictment of politics as usual. It was clearly a message of a desire for change, for new faces, from the French public. You know, France has been governed by Republicans and Socialists, the left and the right, for the last 40 years. And both of these parties were eliminated from the second round the (unintelligible) third and fifth. So clearly, I mean, this is also a signal that the French want to change the way politics is - is done. You know, as you said, Mr. Macron is 39, the first time he ever runs for office. He was an unknown figure just three years ago...

GREENE: Yeah.

HADDAD: ...And created his own party, En Marche! - Forward! - a year ago from scratch. So this is - this is quite an incredible achievement politically and completely unprecedented in French politics.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you about potential change and changing the status quo. I mean, France has very slow economic growth, high unemployment. There are some free marketers who say that is because of powerful unions. It's because of these entrenched laws that do so much to protect workers. Does Macron agree with some of that? Is he - is he willing to challenge that status quo?

HADDAD: Yeah. I mean, he's already tried when he was economics minister for a couple years, and he faced a lot of resistance from his own party. And that led to his resignation, the creation of his own movement. And clearly, he's run on a - on a platform of free market reform (unintelligible) to the job market. You said it. We have a 10 percent unemployment, 25 percent unemployment for young people.

It is very deterring for any risktaking for employers. If they want to turn to, you know, riskier profiles, if they want to hire, it's very expensive. It's very heavy on regulation and paperwork. So clearly, I think this is going to be the first main task for Mr. Macron, is making the job market much more fluid.

GREENE: One-third of France voted for the far right, which is no small amount of people. What - what does that tell us?

HADDAD: You're completely right. It's the - it's the highest score ever for the National Front at a national stage. And we have to be very humble in front of this. You know, the country is - is not doing great. We have high unemployment. We've been reeling from terrorist attacks, a lot of social tension. And there's a lot of legitimate anger and grievances. I think the task is to listen to this anger, to see it, but at the same time, respond to it with concrete policy measures, not hijack it like the National Front has been doing with xenophobia, with racism, anti-Semitism or Europhobia.

It is really to address these challenges. You know, we also have shortcomings of the European Union. Mr. Macron, as you know, is unabashedly pro-European. But that does not mean that he doesn't say that the European Union should, for example, be much more efficient in managing the Eurozone or managing its own borders. But the criticism of the European Union should not be the monopoly of Euro-skeptics or anti-Europeans. So clearly, you know, we really have to address these grievances.

GREENE: All right. Benjamin Haddad is a member of Emmanuel Macron's campaign team on the line from Paris. Thanks a lot.

HADDAD: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.