Emmanuel Macron’s second term is his last sure chance to enact his programme for France but, as over his first term, he also has to deal with real life.
Political analyst Jean Viard says a key aim must be to reunite a country that, while happy in some ways, is also a hotbed of dissatisfaction: “Polls show French people are very happy in their personal and domestic lives. They are just not happy in the public sphere.”
Some French ‘don’t have an identity’
Dr Viard said those who voted for Marine Le Pen felt left behind. “Ask and they’ll tell you they live ‘an hour outside Paris’, or ‘half an hour outside Lyon’.
It’s the same in the US: the people who voted for Trump were people who didn’t know where they lived. They don’t have an identity. They feel left behind by people in cities, they don’t feel they have access to power.”
The difference with the far left is striking. “The left wing is urban, and includes a majority of immigrants.”
Economy not built to withstand war or pandemic
He said it was hard to predict whether Mr Macron would be able to accomplish all his planned reforms.
What Mr Macron plans:
HEALTH – consult on ways to end medical deserts, more nurses, more preventative medicine
RETIREMENT – staged rises in age from 2023 (2027 if strong opposition) to 65 (may slide to 64), raise minimum full pension to €1,100/month
COURTS – 8,500 new judges, targeting petty crime with higher fines
ENVIRONMENT – six new nuclear power stations, make electric cars more affordable, increase solar power tenfold, new sea-based windfarms
RESIDENCY – speed up applications; more focus on French language and work
SPENDING POWER – cut social charges for the self-employed, end TV licence fee
INHERITANCE – raise allowances, recognise the rights of stepchildren
TAX – let cohabiting couples declare for income tax together
Dr Viard went on to say “He’ll be able to do some of it. Perhaps medical deserts, for example. Or perhaps he can better integrate Muslim people in the suburbs.
“Ukraine has taken the spotlight off the issue of Islam and now Russia is the biggest villain facing us, so perhaps he will be able to do something.”
This also means a change in priorities in the country’s economy as France, like most countries in the developed world, built a system which was not designed to withstand pandemics or war.
“Now we see this is wrong. We know there will be pandemics and wars. So we need to be self-sufficient in energy, and also able to manage the climate.”
Nuclear power success for Macron
One positive factor, he said, is that Mr Macron has managed to legitimise nuclear power, which changes the face of the problem concerning energy supplies.
“Back in the 1960/1970s, people didn’t realise the dangers of fossil fuels, and nuclear power was considered more dangerous, but that has changed and ecologists now defend nuclear power.
“Of course, it isn’t safer when there are accidents, but as long as it works properly, it’s less ecologically damaging. We are moving away from fossil fuels and urgently need new ways of producing electricity.”
Social unrest predictable
He says France always sees a rise in social unrest two years after a presidential election: “It was expected to see the gilets jaunes during Macron’s first term, and I forecast another similar movement in 2023/24. But if Macron does enough on ecology, it won’t be a youth movement against him.”
Macron must ‘balance interests’
The Ukraine war could make society more authoritarian.
“Gender equality notwithstanding, gender roles will be reinforced. We’ll be looking at the roles of soldiers vs mothers, for example.
“We’ll be looking at needing the army, needing to be strong. The point of an army is not to deploy it, but for it to be a good negotiating point.”
Political analyst Luc Gras said Mr Macron must “balance many different interests.
The suffering in Ukraine, the need for aid, and in France the problems posed by sky-rocketing prices of oil, gas, grains and edible oils, which will accelerate inflation and exacerbate people’s dwindling purchasing power.”
Macron has his work cut out to unify people
They are divided into four blocs: those for Macron; those for Mélenchon; those for Le Pen; and those who abstained and do not believe voting can change anything.
Unifying them to maintain social cohesion will be important. We could see another social protest movement, but it is difficult to say how significant it may be.
“Using social media, especially with manipulative and fake messages, it is easy to persuade people to take to the streets.
“We have already seen how easily people believe propaganda and act on it.
“Foreign countries using social media to meddle in elections and to destabilise society is also a problem that governments are going to have to tackle.
“Immigration is also still an issue, plus France’s debt has increased significantly since the pandemic.”
One economist is particularly gloomy
While highlighting challenges to come, the experts we spoke to were not as downbeat as influential economist Jacques Attali, who advised then-minister Emmanuel Macron on his 2015 law to free economic growth and expressed gloomy views in a recent opinion piece published on his own site.
He thinks climate change will have reached, or passed, the point of no return in two to three years, and sees a coming global famine and massive migration waves, as well as shortages of materials for high-tech items, causing prices to soar.
A global financial crisis is also likely, he has claimed, and another, perhaps worse, pandemic, is possible...