Rising Powers Welcome French Election Results After Unprecedented Political Tumult
The resounding victory of centrist business friendly Emmanuel Macron over right wing Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections on May 7 was greeted with widespread approval in most rising powers except Russia.
Beijing reportedly “heaved a sigh of relief at Emmanuel Macron’s decisive victory in France’s presidential election.” Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to President-elect Macron. In his message, Xi reportedly said “France was the first major Western country to have established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China” and that “China-France relations, which have significant strategic importance and international influence, have been developing steadily, healthily and consistently in recent years.”
After the first round
- The official English-language website of China News Service (CNS), China’s second largest state-owned news agency, described the French presidential election as “a choice between globalism and nationalism.”
- A CNS commentator expected Macron to win in the runoff against Le Pen and claimed that the European Union seems safe – for now. However, the commentator continued, “this is no time for complacency” because “unless Europe addresses flaws in growth patterns and pursues urgent reforms, the longer-term risks to its survival will almost certainly continue to mount.” The commentator argued that “EU-level action on immigration is needed and the EU may need to modify the free movement of people for a period of time.”
- The nationalist Global Times editorial anticipated that “the impact a Macron presidential victory would have on Europe would be nothing short of far-reaching.” The commentator opined, “Macron is young and energetic, an image of reform and change. He has vowed to break the country’s political establishments while standing in line with mainstream French values. Macron could be an exemplary and inspirational force for other European politicians to follow.”
After the second round
- The Global Times commentator was certain that “populism in Europe will survive the Le Pen defeat.” The commentator continued, “The pro-EU camp cannot afford to lose any of the upcoming elections in Europe. Regardless, France’s position to remain in the EU will play a pivotal role in its survival.” The commentator concluded by calling on the readers to wish France and Europe the best of luck.
- According a CNS op-ed, Macron’s victory “signals a stop in a series of populist surprises embodied by the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.” The commentator is optimistic about the France-China relations stating, “On free trade, multilateralism, global governance and climate change France and China stand in a moment of convergence which offers a unique opportunity to take the relations between the two countries at another level.”
- An op-ed in China Daily, an English-language newspaper directed by the state, took the opportunity to highlight an important commonality between the EU and China: determination to stand up in support of globalization and the multilateral system. The commentator also noted that China “recognises the growing importance of the EU not only as a major market for its goods but also as a strong pillar of the multilateral system” and that with the “new confidence” after Macron’s victory, “the EU now looks forward to the EU-China summit this year as an opportunity to further deepen relations.”
- According to South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, Chinese analysts are uncertain “over whether France’s new president will be able to push through his pro-EU and globalization agenda.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Macron on his victory and wished him “strong health” for the job ahead. Putin in particular stressed the need for Russia and France to “overcome mutual mistrust” and to work together to address the threat of terrorism and to secure regional stability and security.
After the first round
- Pravda.ru joined other Russian media outlets in urging the French people to reject Macron. Painting him as an out-of-touch elitist, a columnist argued that “The French people deserve better than this ‘centrist’ clown…Theirs is not a difficult choice at all. Marine Le Pen understands that France is at a crossroad.” Marine Le Pen was portrayed as the only candidate equipped to deal with terrorism and to stand up against NATO and the U.S.”
- A commentator in The Moscow Times held a different perspective, stating that Russia’s media attacks on “centrist Emmanuel Macron are a political fumble,” and that Moscow overestimated the degree to which Macron would be hostile to Russian interests.
After the second round
- RT, a left-leaning but nationalist and government backed publication, emphasized Macron’s credentials as a part of the establishment, “backed by EU, backed by globalists, backed by the bankers.” The publication also downplayed the significance of his electoral win over Marine Le Pen while highlighting divisions currently underlying French which society which cast a “shadow” on Macron.
- Another RT opinion piece entitled “New brand for an old product, Macron supports EU, immigration & globalization” portrayed Macron’s win as less resounding than widely thought, pointing out that many French citizens refused to participate in the election, or opted for the “least of two evils” scenario.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated President-elect Emmanuel Macron. In his congratulatory message, Modi describe the election as “an emphatic victory.”
After the first round
- An editorial in The Hindu described the run-off between Macron and Le Pen as “a stark choice for French voters.” The commentator expected that the French voters’ decision “will have a profound impact not just on France, but Europe as a whole.” The commenter also alluded to the 2002 election when Jean Marie Le Pen made it past the first round but lost by a massive margin in the second round.
- Another editorial in The Hindu opined that this election would be the most crucial election in France’s modern history.
- For a commentator in The Economic Times, Macron’s rise to the top of the field in first round “comes as relief for those fearful of an extreme right takeover that would see France exit the euro, embrace hyper-nationalism and raise barriers against foreign goods and people.”
- According to The Times of India, the results from the first round defies “the populist tsunami that has swept through UK and US over the last year. French presidential election highlights a liberal fight back against right-wing populism.”
After the second round
- An editorial in Hindustan Times stated, “New Delhi, like most of governments in the world, will take comfort in an election for a global status quo at a time when there is already a surfeit of instability.” The commentator continued, “the anti-immigrant wave that had dominated the western countries seems to have begun to ebb. The French presidential verdict is a battlefield victory and an important one. But the war of worldviews that Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen represented is still being fought.”
- According to an editorial in Hindustan Times, “France has a huge challenge ahead of governing itself.” That is because Macron became a presidential candidate only in November without any party machine, but will need a parliamentary majority to implement his agenda.
- A commentator in The Wire recognized that “most of the votes that went to Macron were cast more in order to prevent Le Pen from becoming the head of state than in support of his agenda.”
- Another commentator in The Wire claimed, “With Macron as president, the EU is now in a stronger position to negotiate the conditions for Brexit.”
In his congratulatory message to the French President-elect, Japanese Prime Minister Abe called Macron’s win a “symbolic victory against inward-looking and protectionist moves, and a mandate for the European Union” and stated, “I want to work together with (you) for world peace and prosperity at a time of continued challenges to the international order.”
The first round had created deep apprehension in Japan
- An editorial in The Asahi Shimbun stated, “As many industrial nations are facing common challenges posed by the trend, we want to see in-depth, nuanced debate between the two candidates on how France should navigate through the dangerous shoals in this globalized world.” The commentator opined that the path that Le Pen offered, “her xenophobic campaign platform, including restrictions on immigrants” is “worrisome” and that “Macron should convince voters to back global cooperation.”
- In an editorial titled “A Political Earthquake Rocks France,” The Japan Times commentator said that the results from the first round were “a rejection of the political mainstream in France.” The commentator also noted that the mainstream candidates rallying around Macron as soon as the results were clear is “one reason to breathe a bit easier.” Additionally, the possibility that the National Front could be repeating history (making it to the second round and then losing the election), is “especially comforting” to the commentator.
The Estadão reported on Emmanuel Macron’s second round victory with 65.8% of the vote. The São Paulo based daily noted that Macron’s victory is also a big win for the European Union in the face of last year’s Brexit and the United States presidential election of conservative nationalist Donald Trump.
O Globo reprinted a pre-election story from El Pais suggesting that Emmanuel Macron is impatient and focused on immediate results while others are still considering their options. Veterans of French politics considered Macron too young and inexperienced to win the presidency. As late as three years ago few aside from his inner circle knew of his work or could recognize his face. Many worried that he was too close to the financial sector, and others considered his pro-market, socially liberal credentials a liability. The Globo story traced the mystery behind Macron, son of doctors and the husband to a woman decades older. The story reported of his tremendous success in the financial services sector and his rise to riches. A regular contributing author to the philosophical journal, Espirit, Macron often wrote of “great narratives.”
Carta Capital highlighted the election of centrist Emmanuel Macron and his promise to combat the divisions that undermine confidence in the country while also reconstructing the relationship between citizens and Europe.Clovis Rossi, columnist for the Folha de São Paulo, commented on two features of Macron’s victory that have gone under reported in the media. First, Macron’s newly established centrist party, En Marche, is a movement that came from the bottom up, and that is very rare if not unprecedented. Secondly, En Marche was successfully because the liberal middle class embraced the movement as it gave up on traditional politicians and the political paralysis that held the nation hostage. En Marche is not an anti-systemic movement, but a liberal political expression that seeks economic reforms within the European Union framework. Macron’s victory behind the force of En Marche provides a historic opportunity to weave together alternative policy proposals of both the left and the right to guide a reformist government in the years to come.
Reaction to the French election was fairly muted in both official government circles and in South Korean media, with most outlets devoting more attention to their own country’s turbulent presidential election underway.