Emmanuel Macron’s victory is a relief for the West, but a historic right-wing extremist vote signals a looming threat


Emmanuel Macron will sit for another term as President of France – the first person to do so since 2002 – polls have predicted.

His victory over right-wing rival Marine Le Pen by a relatively comfortable margin of 58.8% to 41.2% will be met with a huge sigh of relief in the capitals of France’s most prominent ally – especially in Brussels, the EU’s home. and NATO.

While Macron was always the favorite to win this race, the Russian invasion of Ukraine stressed for many the need for Western unity in the face of aggression from a warlord trying to undermine it. Among NATO allies and the EU, that unit has more or less held on during the crisis, but officials feared a Le Pen victory could shake transatlantic relations.

Le Pen could almost be custom-built, as a leader of the Western alliance at least liked to lead a country as important as France.

France is a member of NATO, the EU and the G7. It has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and is a nuclear power. But despite its deep embedding in these pillars of the Western order, France also historically favors an autonomous foreign policy, meaning it can act as a mediator between the US-led Western order and nations like Iran, China and Russia.

Le Pen’s previous ties to Russia, unenthusiastic views on NATO and hostile views on the EU meant that her victory would have rattled cages around the world.

But if the projections are correct, the scale of Macron’s victory tonight will mean that the celebrations will be shortened for many French allies. Far from Macron’s impressive victory in 2017, in which he comfortably defeated Le Pen by 66% of the vote, that margin is now much smaller.

Although defeating the far right for the second time is a major victory for Macron, France’s allies will be very aware that almost 42% of French voters, according to data, supported someone who opposes so much of what they are for.

Nowhere will this be felt more acutely than among the leadership of NATO and the EU.

For NATO, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the first real test of the alliance’s unity for years. While eyebrows were raised over some of the decisions Macron made during the crisis, NATO has largely been on the same page.

Based on Le Pen’s previous relationship with Putin and contempt for NATO, very few believed that this would not create a problem not only in NATO but also in the UN Security Council.

It is also worth noting that although Putin may not have gotten his favorite candidate into the Elysee, Le Pen will remain an influential figure in France, enjoying great support. While her loss means a continuation of France’s most hostile policy towards Putin’s invasion, Russia still has a valuable disruptor in a central European country that is likely to continue to drive divisions in France and beyond.

When it comes to the EU, Macron has hardly been pale in his desire for Europe to become stronger and more united in terms of its security and foreign policy. His vision of European unity sometimes irritates many of his colleagues, who believe that he is trying to impose a French vision for Europe, although his commitment to the project can not be doubted.

Le Pen, on the other hand, is more dangerous than one who wants France to leave the EU: she would be able to lead the group of Eurosceptics who will take over the bloc from within.

There are a significant number of these people already represented in the EU institutions. In parliament, right-wing extremist parties are represented in a number of countries. Things are getting more messy when it comes to Europe’s national leadership.

There are EU Member States, especially Hungary and Poland, led by people whose views on the EU are very close to Le Pens. This was emphasized last year when she joined several other right-wing leaders, including national leaders, in an open letter in which she opposed many of the progressive ideas that have been proposed by Brussels in recent decades.

So while many of Europe’s leaders were quick to congratulate Macron, they will be well aware that this anti-EU, anti-Western sentiment is still very much alive in France – without a doubt the most powerful member state of the EU.

For the traditional West, Macron’s second period is a moment of great relief, but also a moment of warning. If the far right continues to win, there could be a completely different result in five years.

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