Europe

Macron’s win in France election brings hope to the world: Tharman

Macron’s win in France election brings hope to the world: Tharman
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron gestures during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. Photo: AP
Published: 6:45 AM, May 8, 2017
Updated: 7:07 AM, May 8, 2017

SINGAPORE — Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential election has brought hope to France, Europe and the world that openness and tolerance can defeat extremism, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday (May 8).

In a note on Facebook, Mr Tharman noted that Mr Macron has a tough task ahead, but the French president-elect “also starts with the courage to break the mould”.

“Openness and tolerance defeated extremism,” Mr Tharman said.

Mr Macron’s emphatic victory — pollsters’ projections gave him a winning margin of around 65 per cent to 35 against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen — brings huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the European Union and Mr Donald Trump’s election as US president.

The 39-year-old former investment banker, who will be the youngest president of France’s Fifth Republic, had campaigned on a business-friendly vision of European integration, and also portrayed himself as the man to revive France’s fortunes by recasting a political landscape moulded by the left-right divisions of the last century. Ms Le Pen, on the other hand, focused on high-spending, anti-globalisation “France-first” policies.

Even with Mr Macron’s victory, it was still a record performance for Ms Le Pen’s National Front party, whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah in French politics.

Mr Macron acknowledged the results as much in a speech shown on live television. “I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said.

“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them...I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens,” he added.

In his victory speech, Mr Macron also vowed to “rebuild the relationship between Europe and the peoples that make it”. He pledged to open a new page for France based on hope and “restored confidence”.

Mr Tharman said the battle for Mr Macron, and against extremism, is “far from over”.

“The French results show that the extreme right and its brand of populist nationalism is now in the mainstream. Le Pen’s National Front won a historic one third of votes - and a majority among blue-collar voters. And large numbers of people cast blank votes, or did not bother to vote.
“So Mr Macron has a tough task. He starts without a political base in parliament. But he also starts with the courage to break the mould,” Mr Tharman said.