By Rashme Sehgal
Marseilles: The French are pleased that the US President Donald Trump will join French President Emmanuel Macron at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the US entering the First World War on July 14.
Political power in France has a new look with Macron, a former investment banker and economy minister, becoming France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. The newly elected Parliament has a fresh, young look about it with 75 per cent of the new MPs who have won the electoral ballot having no political background.
Louis Tari, a financial analyst, pointed out, “For the first time elected deputies (parliamentarians) have come to work for society without carrying any political baggage. Macron has succeeded in breaking the old political structures that have dominated France for decades. He wanted the deputies to reflect the ground reality and in doing so, he has managed to put a more dynamic and younger team in place.”
The average age of the parliamentarians has come down by seven years and is now 48. Another first for this Parliament is that 223 of those elected are women.
Commenting on Macron’s mercurial rise, Yannick Mireur, a political scientist and author specialising in foreign policy who is running the think tank Nexus said, “Macron was a close aide of Hollande but he resigned in 2014 to set up his own political ‘movement’ En Marche (Let’s Go). Within a month of his resignation, he announced his plans to become President thereby changing the political discourse of the country.
“It is clear that Macron has powerful supporters who have preferred to remain low key. Macron is seen as an outsider who may succeed in breaking an exhausted (political) system.”
Elaborating further, Mireur said, “The most far reaching changes he is expected to implement will be to change the labour laws in France in order to reduce the power of the labour unions. He is also expected to provide greater fiscal stability especially since the earlier socialist (Hollande) government kept changing the tax laws. And most important, Macron is also expected to provide greater tax breaks to French citizens and companies.”
The celebrated songwriter and French journalist Jean Pax Mefret offers a word of caution. “Both the right wing Republicans and the left leaning Socialists have been routed at the polls. Presently, the Republicans have emerged as the main Opposition party with 137 parliamentary seats but already many of their MPs have openly declared that they will support Macron on the key issue of labour reform.”
Mafret went on to state, “The extreme right wing Marine Le Pens party is down to a mere eight seats. With the opposition in complete disarray, power is now centred in Macron’s hands. That has made him extremely powerful and that is not good for democracy.”
Marie Clair who works as a chef in a local restaurant, is also apprehensive about Macron.
“I voted for him because he was young but I still do not know what he is like. We have to wait and watch. Like Napoleon he is 39 and the youngest president France has ever had but whether he will fulfil all his campaign promises is the key question,” said Marie.
Macron’s wife Brigitte Trognex , who was his drama teacher at the school in which the President studied in Amiens is 24 years older than him, but she receives nothing but praise from a cross-section of the women this reporter spoke to.
Said Clair, “His wife is a woman of tremendous courage. She is the quintessential woman. She has made him what he is today.”
Said Angelina, who has specialised in Oriental massage, “For a man to marry a woman who has been his own teacher, and also a mother of three children, is very unusual. But the French, and especially French leaders have a history of leading very complicated love lives.”
Former French President Hollande was living with a woman but this did not stop him from entering into a relationship with Julia Gayet who was 18 years his junior. Sarkozy divorced his wife the day he became President and then went on to marry former model Carla Bruni who was 13 years his junior. Another former President Francois Mitterand had a long relationship with an art historian and even had a daughter from her.
But relationships apart, Macron is also positioning himself as a global player. Macron was publicly critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate pact.
He is in favour of a strong Europe and is determined to forge a better relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to achieve this objective.