France Isn’t Out of the Woods Yet

Moderates and leftists across France and the entire Western world breathed a sigh of relief on April 24. Emmanuel Macron had been re-elected as President of the French Republic after a tense battle with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The election result should have indicated a repudiation of ignorant ideas —  Macron, despite his faults, prevailed against a candidate who wanted to enact a law banning the public use of headscarves for Muslim public use of head scarves for Muslim women. Unfortunately, French democracy is still in trouble.

Le Pen was once seen as a far-right extremist of sorts and was never really a truly viable candidate for the presidency until this election. She appealed to a frustrated French people with the idea that she is the defender of the working class, espousing the racist notion that immigrants and people of other races are the causes of some of France’s problems such as employment. This is not dissimilar to the case of Donald Trump, the American president who ultimately ended up inciting an invasion of the US Capitol building. Le Pen also cast herself as a single mother who can sympathize with the French people. The ironic idea that a presidential candidate can appeal to the voters’ humanity using her identity as a single mother and simultaneously peddle hateful far-right sentiments such as support for banning head scarves and cracking down on innocent immigrants from war-torn countries serves as an analogy for the state of French democracy. The fact that such a hateful ideology can exist and be seen as mainstream while helping a candidate to win 41.5 percent of the vote, is truly disheartening and completely unacceptable. The success of such a hateful ideology in this election foreshadows a dark future for France as unless action is taken these forces will only continue to grow and have greater influence within the French government.

Furthermore, French politics are truly in shambles; Macron is a highly divisive President, whose administration has caused a massive rise in resentment and public dissatisfaction despite his relatively reasonable policies. In the words of Philippe Marlière, a Professor of European Politics at University College London, “The French people have been at once animated and anesthetized by the past five years…The national mood, given to febrile outbursts and hurt withdrawals, is uneasy.” This dissatisfaction will most likely continue to increase, as the fallouts of the pandemic and refugee crises continue to grow. Furthermore, Macron is viewed as an elitist; this sentiment is a big part of the reason Le Pen was so popular. Macron is seen as looking down on the common people, and that type of public image is the opposite of what France needs. The combination of all these political factors shows just how divided France is as a country and how real the possibility of a far-right takeover is. If this takeover is not going to be led by Le Pen, it could just as easily be led by Éric Zemmour, whose ideology is even more dangerous than Le Pen’s, or even led from the left by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Emmanuel Macron needs to get his act together, and fast. The rise of the far-right and the highly divided state of French politics show just how dire the situation is. For the sake of the people of France, especially minorities, this crisis needs to be resolved. Emmanuel Macron needs to start presenting himself as less arrogant and more of a man of the people, he needs to find a balance between a policy that pleases the people and policy that curbs climate change and other key issues. While this is a tall order, Macron needs to somehow move mountains to make it happen, for if he doesn’t, the far-right just might prevail when the election cycle arrives.