The European Union is preparing to let out a huge, collective sigh of relief. The latest potential crisis to threaten the bloc has, apparently, been averted. The clear favorite to win the French presidential election this weekend is not the EU-hating, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The front-runner, with a 20-point lead in some opinion polls, is Emmanuel Macron, leader of a new party called On the Move and a real EU enthusiast. Some say a Macron victory could help the bloc recover from its deep and chronic malaise.
“I’m supporting Macron because he’s pro-European, and I think the EU is very important for our country and our future,” Baptiste Gonzales, a law student, told Marketplace at a recent Macron rally in Paris.
At the same rally, Serge Dupont, a middle-aged office worker, said he was voting for Macron because he was worried what would happen to his savings if Le Pen won power and pulled France out of the euro.
“It’s unthinkable. Markets would tank. The euro’s not perfect, but we’ve done OK out of it. Our future is with the Union,” he said.
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Macron has been the most pro-EU candidate in this election. If, as expected, he wins the presidency on Sunday, the EU will have a powerful advocate in the Elysee Palace. Natalie Nougayrede, a former editor of the newspaper Le Monde, said a victory by Macron would help revive the bloc’s shattered confidence.
“What it means for Europe is that France will stay in the club and work towards strengthening it at a time when we know that with Brexit and many other political trends on the Continent, which are worrying, it has to be salvaged,” Nougayrede said.
But while Macron is promising much closer EU integration to make the single currency function more smoothly, and while he is also pledging many other radical reforms, he may not be able to deliver very much. He would need to win a majority of seats in the legislature in the parliamentary elections in June, and bank analyst Yannick Naud said that could prove very difficult.
“His party, On the Move, was only created a year ago. It’s unlikely that he will be able to win a majority of seats in the general election next month. So therefore, we will need to see a coalition government,” Naud said.
That’s a tricky and time-consuming business in France. The name of Macron’s new party, On the Move, could prove optimistic. Even if he does win the presidency this weekend, Macron may not turn out to be Europe’s salvation.