King Macron

Jeremy Harding

Emmanuel Macron, the eighth president of the Fifth Republic, is decked in glory; around his head a halo you could easily mistake for a crown. Youth, acumen, charisma, and now, above all, power. Having nearly doubled the vote for his rival, Marine Le Pen, in round two of the presidentials, he is likely to see a sweeping endorsement for his party, La République en Marche, when the second round of voting for seats at the National Assembly takes place on Sunday.

Round one already seems to have locked REM’s parliamentary majority into position. There were early flutterings of Macronista hope as votes in 11 expatriate constituencies – where the ballots take place a week ahead of voting in France and its overseas territories – were declared. In North America, that’s to say the first constituency ‘des français établis hors de France’ – and don’t you love it? – voters came out against the centre-right MP who represents them in Paris, in favour of Macron. In Latin America, the Ecologist incumbent was run into the ground. In Berlin, an expat constituency all its own, the REM candidate trounced the Socialist incumbent. In Northern Europe (which includes French voters in the UK), the Socialist incumbent took fewer than 10 per cent of the ballots, REM’s candidate more than 60.

REM’s round one victory at home was resounding, and may earn it at least 400 seats. But abstention also hit record levels, at 51.29 per cent. I’m rummaging back in vain for anything comparable under the Fifth Republic. The only figures I can find are for elections to the European parliament: more than 59 per cent abstained in 2009. Four years earlier the French electorate had voted down the European Constitution and been snubbed; they were – and are – guarded about the EU.

Macron and REM are undissuaded Europeans. President and party are about to enjoy a moment of hegemony in France that will make opposition from left or right (and especially the far right) look like the mumblings of sectarian cults. Scores of REM top-performers will be sluiced into parliament like jubilant youngsters on a waterslide. An exhilarating moment, why deny it? The composition of the Assembly in 1981, after Mitterrand dissolved it and, in the elections that followed, voters flooded the Palais Bourbon with a ‘pink wave’, brought many new deputies into the national arena. Even so, as one constituency after another looks likely to fall to REM, there is local concern in 2017 that parliamentary novices who sound good in the chamber know nothing about the issues their predecessors got to grips with on the ground.

Macron is powering down the rapids to the tranquil pool of undisputed control even faster than he’d hoped to go. After Sunday he will be able to enact any legislation of his choosing. He already has a draft anti-terrorist law that would enshrine the rough-house security priorities of the state of emergency – which he wants to prolong until November – in the constitution.

He will, for sure, be able to push through further ‘fluidification’ of the French labour market and draw down collective bargaining rights in the workplace. On this there is hesitation in France: when is it better to be exploited and humiliated than not to be hired in the first place? It depends on who you are and what you can reasonably hope for. Macron is the president of market realism and if you failed to get it under Sarkozy and Hollande, now is the time to grasp the nettle. Liberté – in this case, the freedom to sell your labour at what you and your fellow workers regard as a just rate – has to be struck from the motto. It is already curtailed by global labour markets, the Macron argument runs, and French labour must acknowledge the fact.

So on two counts – security and labour laws – Macron is already the president of constraint. But will lack of freedom be available to all, or will it be selective? Surely Macron, who is set to rule like a king, will bestow this noble disadvantage on some, while others bow graciously as they retire from the audience feigning a sense of disappointment.


  • 16 June 2017 at 1:52am
    farthington says:
    Correction. Macron is already the president of selective constraint.
    I'm surprised to read in the LRB such an insouciant defence of wage slavery.
    There is nothing inevitable about endless reductions of workplace wages and conditions.
    Macron's 'market realism' is a discretionary affair, endowed with greater force by the structural imperatives of Brussels and the big brother dictates of Berlin.
    Macron is actually not very smart. A product of endless patronage, he has picked up the correct line from the criteria necessary to ensure his own upward mobility.
    Destroying labour conditions in France will not dramatically reduce the unemployment rate. Did Macron in the Élysée or as Economy Minister seek to inquire the reasons behind widespread deindustrialisation? No. But proactive industry policy to generate jobs is prohibited by Brussels. The failure of France to ensure its national interest in this regard is well articulated by Jean-Michel Quatrepoint in this month's Le Monde Diplomatique.
    Macron is due to impose on France what the troika imposed on Greece. Europe can survive with Greece's dismantlement but not with France's.
    There will be massive popular disruption unnder EM and ERM.
    France is not viable in Europe as presently oriented. How long the French are prepared to tolerate being under the suzerainty of Brussels/Berlin and a quisling installed is the number one question.

  • 16 June 2017 at 2:10am
    farthington says:
    When Macron assumes as high priority the widespread crime behind France's budgetary problems that is tax evasion (corporate and personal), and the transparent farce that is the intra-EU beggar thy neighbour maintenance of tax evasion locales within the EU itself (Luxembourg's Juncker at the helm of the EU? joke), then perhaps he might deserve to be taken seriously.
    But he won't and he isn't.
    The billionaire owned French media put Macron in power. Is Macron going to turn on his support base? Not on your nelly.

  • 16 June 2017 at 3:25pm
    streetsj says:
    Out of interest farthington, do you post in the early hours of the morning or are you somewhere west? Or east?

    • 27 June 2017 at 9:37pm
      John Cowan says: @ streetsj
      The reference to compulsory voting suggests Australia.

  • 16 June 2017 at 6:03pm
    bonapartocunasa says:
    It's funny how the focus in UK elections (and most other countries I know) is on the turnout, whereas in France it seems to be on the "abstention rate". Is that purely linguistic, I wonder, or does it suggest that non-voting is viewed as a deliberate, positive act in France, rather than the passive "can't be bothered" it represents everywhere else?

    • 17 June 2017 at 7:52am
      farthington says: @ bonapartocunasa
      The expression in France is « Ils préfèrent la pêche à la ligne ».
      i.e. they've gone fishing instead.
      A significant portion of those 'gone fishing' appear to be saying 'a plague on all your houses'.
      Don't vote - a politician always wins.
      The « blanc » votes during the second recound of the PResidential election, at record highs, represented a more hard line principled disdain for both candidates on offer.
      There are merits in compulsory voting (which I enjoy). In spite of the fact that one is still faced overwhelmingly with a choice between self-serving opportunists and/or mad ideologues, the compulsion forces (on balance) greater involvement and commitment. And just occasionally, there is elected a person of integrity.

  • 17 June 2017 at 9:32am
    Krudy says:
    so, the proeuropean estabishment installs a proeuropean poodle, sells him through mainstream media to a nation which, in absence of ideology, values appearances. in fact they do so in any case. il est jeune et beau, ca suffit.
    this entire business of media serving an opinion, for a decent fee, to stupefied electorate is now a repetitive pattern across western societies, and it seems democracy as a principle is not fit for purpose.
    or, hm, it is exactly fit for purpose of control and manipulation.
    the real issue is prevention of deliberate stupefaction by the mainstream media. selling opinion is more profitable than selling intelligent articulation or interpretation.
    another consequence of the prevailing materialism.
    as for macron, there will be disappointment once the perfumed wrapping is undone.
    the future of his political career will align with that of his marriage.

  • 27 June 2017 at 6:41pm
    eeffock says:
    the next act of 'Je Suis Charlie'

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