Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone


July 20, 2017

Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone

Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

by Martin Sanbu@www.ft.com

Image result for Trump Go it Alone Foreign PolicyDonald Trump with his Foreign Policy Novice, SIL Jared Kushner

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.–Martin Sandbu

The greatest challenge posed by Donald Trump’s presidency is not that he will deploy American strength against the global common good. It is that he demonstrates how weak the US has become.

Recall Mr Trump’s inaugural address. The phrase that has resounded around the world is “America first”. But the more significant phrase he used is that other, more inward-looking one: “American carnage”. What sort of country describes itself, in the words of its highest leader no less, in such terms? Not one that feels strong.

Some Americans may not recognise the dystopian conditions his speech described. But a large group surely does. American decline is not a figment of Mr Trump’s imagination. The US economy has left large numbers of people with stagnant wages for decades. It is an economy in which millions fewer people have a job than at the peak in 2000, and which still leaves tens of millions without secure, decent healthcare.

It is an economy dotted with towns that were thriving within living memory, but have been devastated by the loss of factory jobs — lost because automation made plants too productive to need as much human labour as before, or because a failure to automate made them uncompetitive against rivals.

Above all, it is an economy in which centuries-old progress against mortality has gone in reverse for middle-aged low-educated Americans, who are dying from the afflictions of broken lives and broken communities: drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide.

Deep economic change has affected other advanced economies too. But others have not let globalisation get in the way of managing it. The US is weak not because it has uniquely been cheated out of a golden age of factory jobs by foreigners, but because it has failed to create a prosperous new future for all at home.

Mr Trump’s railing against Washington is therefore not without foundation. Economic dysfunction has long been matched by glaringly inadequate governance. The devastation of the global financial crisis — which was at its core a US financial crisis, unsuspected by its regulatory system — followed the gross incompetence of the George W Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and its adventurism in Iraq.

Mr Trump’s speech in Poland before the G20 summit was the international version of his American carnage speech. Just like the US, in his telling, is a landscape of decay at the mercy of corrupt leaders, he presented the western world as mortally threatened by destructive forces because of decadence within.

But while he may be a fiery prophet of US decline, he is wrong about the wider world. If other western countries display a quiet confidence vis-à-vis Mr Trump, it is because they have reason to. Their unrepentant globalism is striking. Canada’s reconsecration of its globalist destiny matches its ambitious welcome of refugees. Europe and Japan are creating one of the world’s largest free trade areas. The EU vows not to withdraw from globalisation but to shape it to its values of solidarity. Japan is leading the other spurned partners from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Mr Trump has pulled out of, in an effort to complete trade liberalisation without US participation.

What lessons can we draw from this contrast? First, take the theatrics of populism seriously. Populism paradoxically mixes machismo with an incessant focus on weakness — but blames weakness on elements that must be expelled, allowing the true representatives of the forgotten people a free hand.

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A revitalised Franco-German Partnership for a Strong EU–Macron and Merkel

Second, this worsens the problem populists promise to solve. It deepens existing divisions and paralyses democratic politics. For aspiring totalitarians that may be part of a plan. For others, it is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look no further than Britain for a nation that has acted on a mistaken belief that its strength has been sapped by the global liberal order (in the form of the EU), only to throw itself into true political disarray and indecision.

Third, the clash between populism and globalism is theatrical all right, but it is a theatre of the grotesque that expresses reality by transmogrifying it. Those who most try to project strength are those with the most domestic weakness to hide. Leaders of harmonious countries have no need to brag.

Fourth, it is in countries where US-style social and economic decay is most visible that the global liberal order is most contested: above all the UK, but also France and Italy. The rest of the west must redouble efforts to improve the social protections that have kept decay at bay for now.

Germany is of particular importance: its labour reforms 15 years ago have produced a worrying increase in inequality and precarious work. It must not repeat the US’s mistakes.

Finally, the global liberal order is more than the US. Its remaining supporters aim to carry on by forging the unity of purpose collectively that the US cannot even muster at home. A few decades ago that would have been unthinkable. Today, it may just be true that US isolationism will most harm the US itself.

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.

martin.sandbu@ft.com

Britain’s Deepening Confusion


June 27, 2017

Britain’s Deepening Confusion

by Robert Skidelsky* @www.project-syndicate.org

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Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May leading a confused Britain

*Lord Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and a fellow of the British Academy in history and economics, is a member of the British House of Lords. The author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, he began his political career in the Labour party, became the Conservative Party’s spokesman for Treasury affairs in the House of Lords, and was eventually forced out of the Conservative Party for his opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.

 

“Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). Whether it is “enough immigrants” or “enough austerity,” Britain’s voters certainly have had enough of a lot.

But the election has left Britain confusingly split. Last year’s Brexit referendum on European Union membership suggested a Leave-Remain divide, with the Brexiteers narrowly ahead. This year’s general election superimposed on this a more traditional left-right split, with a resurgent Labour Party capitalizing on voter discontent with Conservative budget cuts.

To see the resulting political terrain, imagine a two-by-two table, with the four quadrants occupied by Remainers and Budget Cutters; Remainers and Economic Expansionists; Brexiteers and Budget Cutters; and Brexiteers and Economic Expansionists. The four quadrants don’t add up to coherent halves, so it’s not possible to make out what voters thought they were voting for.

But it is possible to make out what voters were rejecting. There are two certain casualties. The first is austerity, which even the Conservatives have signaled they will abandon. Cutting public spending to balance the budget was based on the wrong theory and has failed in practice. The most telling indicator was the inability of George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2010 to 2016, to achieve any of his budget targets. The deficit was to have vanished by 2015, then by 2017, then by 2020-2021. Now, no government will commit to any date at all.

The targets were based on the idea that a “credible” deficit-reduction program would create sufficient business confidence to overcome the depressing effects on activity of the cuts themselves. Some say the targets were never credible enough. The truth is that they never could be: the deficit cannot come down unless the economy grows, and budget cuts, real and anticipated, hinder growth. The consensus now is that austerity delayed recovery for almost three years, depressing real earnings and leaving key public services like local government, health care, and education palpably damaged.

So expect the ridiculous obsession with balancing the budget to be scrapped. From now on, the deficit will be left to adjust to the state of the economy.

The second casualty is unrestricted immigration from the EU. The Brexiteers’ demand to “control our borders” was directed against the uncontrolled influx of economic migrants from Eastern Europe. This demand will have to be met in some way.

Migration within Europe was negligible when the EU was mainly West European. This changed when the EU began incorporating the low-wage ex-communist countries. The ensuing migration eased labor shortages in host countries like the UK and Germany, and increased the earnings of the migrants themselves. But such benefits do not apply to unrestricted migration.

Studies by Harvard University’s George J. Borjas and others suggest that net immigration lowers the wages of competing domestic labor. Borjas’s most famous study shows the depressive impact of “Marielitos” – Cubans who immigrated en masse to Miami in 1980 – on domestic working-class wages.

These fears have long underpinned sovereign states’ insistence on the right to control immigration. The case for control is strengthened when host countries have a labor surplus, as has been true of much of Western Europe since the crisis of 2008. Support for Brexit is essentially a demand for the restoration of sovereignty over the UK’s borders.

The crux of the issue is political legitimacy. Until modern times, markets were largely local, and heavily protected against outsiders, even from neighboring towns. National markets were achieved only with the advent of modern states. But the completely unrestricted movement of goods, capital, and labor within sovereign states became possible only when two conditions were met: the growth of national identity and the emergence of national authorities able to provide security in the face of adversity.

The European Union fulfills neither condition. Its peoples are citizens of their nation-states first. And the contract between citizens and states on which national economies depend cannot be reproduced at the European level, because there is no European state with which to conclude the deal. The EU’s insistence on free movement of labor as a condition of membership of a non-state is premature, at best. It will need to be qualified, not just as part of the UK’s Brexit deal, but for the whole of the EU.

So how will the shambolic results of the British general election play out? May will not last long as Prime Minister. Osborne has called her a “dead woman walking” (of course without acknowledging that his austerity policies helped to seal her demise).

The most sensible outcome is currently a political non-starter: a Conservative-Labour coalition government, with (say) Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn as his deputy. The government would adopt a two-year program consisting of only two items: the conclusion of a “soft” Brexit deal with the EU and a big public investment program in housing, infrastructure, and green energy.

The rationale for the investment program is that a rising tide will lift all boats. And an added benefit of a thriving economy will be lower hostility to immigration, making it easier for Britain to negotiate sensible regulation of migrant flows.

And who knows: if the negotiations force the EU to re-cast its own commitment to free labor movement, Brexit may turn out to be a matter less of British exit than of an overhaul of the terms of European membership.

America’s past and future collide on a single day in Europe


May 26, 2017

Today's WorldView

America’s past and future collide on a single day in Europe

 By Ishaan Tharoor

Call it a tale of two Presidents. On the same day that President Trump visits the gleaming new NATO headquarters in Brussels, his predecessor will give a high-profile speech in Berlin.

Former President Barack Obama is expected to return to the Brandenburg Gate on Thursday, basking in the admiration of his many European admirers while speaking alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a leader with whom he has a famous friendship. Obama will be participating in the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant church. That it coincides with Trump’s tour of the Belgian capital is a scheduling quirk, but it’s a coincidence that feels fraught with symbolism.

On Wednesday, Trump entered the den of the proverbial globalists. Brussels is not just the headquarters of the West’s preeminent military alliance, but also the heart of the European Union and home to the sort of technocratic elites that Trump and the continent’s far right frequently rage against. Before he entered the White House, Trump deemed NATO “obsolete” and seemed to suggest that he would welcome the further dissolution of the European Union after Brexit.

“The mere fact that Trump has agreed to visit a city filled with international organizations he once called ‘obsolete’ is a victory,” The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Anthony Faiola wrote.  And although a few months in office appear to have moderated Trump’s message, Obama’s star turn in Berlin will only deepen the sense of dissonance surrounding his successor.

An editorial in the Leipziger Zeitung newspaper said Obama’s presence in Germany would be that of a “healer.” Obama, the newspaper declared, “is a painfully missed ex-president,” an “eloquent, charismatic preacher.” These are qualities, it claimed, that Trump entirely lacks.

No matter the polarization that seems to define American politics, Obama remains an incredibly well-regarded figure in Europe. An estimated 200,000 Germans rallied around Obama in Berlin before his first election in 2008, and that enthusiasm endured. A Pew Research Center survey last June found that 77 percent of Europeans had confidence in Obama, while only 9 percent felt the same way about Trump.

Obama’s popularity was even greater in Germany, where 86 percent of respondents said they had confidence in him. His Thursday appearance at the Brandenburg Gate, where Ronald Reagan famously upbraided the Soviet Union’s final leader, may reaffirm the spirit of American friendship — or at least spark some nostalgia for a cuddlier past.

“The choice of the location seems like a staging for the ‘good American’ Germans would have liked to have seen in office,” Thomas Jäger, Professor of international politics and foreign policy at Cologne University, said to my colleagues. “Trump, on the other hand, in the German perception embodies every negative American stereotype … a grandstander, too loud, successful in a way that one doesn’t like at all.”

The expectations surrounding Trump’s time in Brussels are not particularly high. At NATO he will stick to a familiar and safe script, urging the United States’ partners to share more of the burden in maintaining international security and emphasizing the need to focus on the war against Islamist extremism — two issues where he will find no resistance among NATO’s member states. Conspicuously, serious discussion about the challenge of Russia is not on the agenda. Trump will also meet several European leaders, including recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who campaigned with Obama’s blessing from afar and at times seemed to point to the perils of Trump’s presidency as a reason to vote against his own right-wing opponents.

 

But now that the sitting U.S. president is in Europe, his interlocutors on the continent will hope he can be persuaded to embrace the institutions and the wider liberal order he railed against just months ago.

“There’s still a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to the aims and objectives of the Americans,” Cornelius Adebahr, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said to The Post. “One of the main objectives is to convince the Americans of the value of these formats.”

Trump is “someone who doesn’t believe in the whole idea of engaging with European allies,” Tomas Valasek, head of the Carnegie Europe think tank, said to my colleagues. “At least part of the European countries’ strategy for dealing with Trump is essentially to hunker down and wait until he goes away.”

Ahead of the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily, where Trump will be in attendance, Merkel called for unity in the fight against global warming. The move was seen in part as a bid to push back against the Trump administration’s apparent desire to pull out of the Paris climate accords — a pact championed by Obama. There is hope among European officialdom that the “grown-ups” in the White House will coax Trump away from extreme positions and keep his foreign policy more in line with that of a traditional Republican president. Others caution against such complacency.

“European policymakers hope that [Trump] will listen to his team, live up to their promises, and not destroy the NATO alliance or the European Union in a fit of pique,” wrote Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They would be wiser to hedge against his predictable unpredictability and seek their own means of securing their position in the world.”

 






The End of the Left/Right Divide?


May 13, 2017

The End of the Left/Right Divide?

by Ian Buruma*

http://www.project-syndicate.org

*Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College. He is the author of numerous books, including Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance and Year Zero: A History of 1945.

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Marine Le Pen defeated by Ensemble,la France

After the French Revolution of 1789, deputies in the National Assembly who supported the revolutionary gains sat on the left, while those who opposed them and hankered after the old order of monarchy and church congregated on the right. Hence the political terms “left” and “right.” Many commentators on the French presidential election have pointed out that these categories no longer fit contemporary politics in France – or, indeed, anywhere else. Emmanuel Macron prides himself on being neither right nor left.

Marine Le Pen, whose National Front is associated with the far right, disagrees: to her, Macron, who was a minister in a Socialist government, is a leftist. But, like Donald Trump, it was Le Pen who ran as the “voice of the people,” whereas Macron, like Hillary Clinton, was depicted as a puppet of bankers, cultural elites, and international plutocrats.

Image result for End of the Extreme Right in France
 

So what do left and right still mean, if anything at all? There is little doubt that something shifted in the last decades of the twentieth century. Left-wing parties began to lose – in some countries more quickly than others – their base in the industrial working class. Redistribution of wealth became gradually less important than the social emancipation of ethnic and sexual minorities. The old alliance between intellectual idealists and trade unions gave way to rainbow coalitions of intellectuals, non-whites, feminists, and gays.

Meanwhile, right-wing parties, like the Republicans in the United States, paid lip service to the social conservatism, and sometimes outright bigotry, of less privileged voters in rural and provincial areas, while doing what was best for big business once they were in power.

What was good for big business – international cooperation, pan-national institutions, and openness to immigration – was not always against the interests of the evolving left-of-center parties. Big business benefited from cheap labor, and the left favored multiculturalism.

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The EU gets a reprieve from France’s Emmanuel Macron

It made some sense, then, that European social democrats frequently ended up in coalition governments with moderate pro-business conservatives or Christian Democrats. This trend was boosted by the collapse of the Soviet empire, because Western liberal democracies no longer had the same pressing need to counter the Communist model with egalitarian arrangements of their own. The electoral successes of Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in the United Kingdom had much to do with their deliberate tilts towards the pragmatic, neoliberal, business-friendly center.

In this respect, distinctions between left and right have indeed collapsed. The old idea of a left representing the downtrodden proletariat against the interests of big business and the bourgeoisie is gone. One reason why the British Labour Party is in such disarray is that it is led by a man, Jeremy Corbyn, whose politics haven’t changed since the 1970s.

But the traditional distinction between left and right is not simply economic. There has been a deeper divide within the National Assembly in France, defined by that between the Dreyfusards and the anti-Dreyfusards in the 1890s, or Léon Blum’s Popular Front and the Action Française in the 1930s. This division still holds in the age of Macron and Le Pen.

Defenders of the French Republic, who took Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity seriously, thought of citizenship as a legal concept, not one based on blood and soil. They believed in institutions more than in hallowed traditions, and in internationalism rather than chauvinism. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer falsely accused of treason in 1894, was such a polarizing figure in France because his opponents saw him as symbol of national decadence, of a nation whose sacred identity was being diluted by alien blood.

Anti-Semites, and others with a blood-and-soil view of society, invariably see “cold-hearted bankers” (Le Pen’s term for her opponent in the presidential debate) as the enemy of “the real people…the ordinary, decent people” (Nigel Farage’s words at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in Mississippi). In this sense, Macron, who was indeed once a banker for Rothschild, and who believes in open borders and international institutions, is a man of the left. And Le Pen, the champion of La France profonde, the “real France” of rural Christians and angry white people who believe that to be French and Muslim is a contradiction in terms, is a true descendant of the anti-Dreyfusards and the Action Française.

Macron managed to defeat Le Pen this time around. But the social-democratic left is still in a state of crisis. The UK Labour Party is moribund. The Dutch Social Democrats were wiped out. And Trump, an ignorant narcissist with no political experience, managed to become President of the US by whipping up popular resentment against educated elites, bankers, foreigners, immigrants, and international institutions.

The problem for social democrats nowadays is how to survive if large numbers of underprivileged people turn right instead of left. Is it possible for a new alignment to be forged? Can the growing gap between rich and poor bring at least some of the white working class back into the same tent as immigrants and other minorities? Is another New Deal feasible? How might this be reconciled with the interests of internationalist businessmen and bankers?

The crisis on the right, however, is no less serious. Trump may have surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs alumni and corporate titans, even as he claims to serve the interests of the common people. And many Republicans still cling to him in the hope of achieving their policy goals. But he has effectively hijacked the old conservative party of business and internationalism. Will his brand of chauvinistic, nativist populism be able to coexist with the kind of capitalism that thrives on continued immigration, freedom of movement, and global institutions?

While France has dodged the xenophobic bullet this time, the dust has not yet settled. Left and right may be in flux, but the old divisions that emerged after 1789 are still there, perhaps more than ever. Macron is full of good intentions. But if his politics fail, the latter-day anti-Dreyfusards will be back with a vengeance.

France rejects Le Pen


May 10, 2017

France rejects Le Pen in favour of Euro-centric Macron–Huge Challenges Ahead

by John Cassidy

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-huge-challenges-facing-emmanuel-macron-frances-new-president?mbid=nl_170508_Daily&CNDID=49438257&spMailingID=10976418&spUserID=MTg4MDU2MzU5MDA5S0&spJobID=1160695595&spReportId=MTE2MDY5NTU5NQS2

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As Emmanuel Macron and his supporters celebrated his big victory in the French Presidential election outside the Louvre on Sunday night, you could almost hear the sighs of relief from other parts of Europe, and also from this country. After a long and fractious campaign, which saw the two parties that have run France for decades humiliated, and the far-right National Front enjoying record levels of support, the center ultimately held. Which is good news all around.

Last November, it looked as if Donald Trump’s election, which followed the Brexit vote in Britain, might herald a wave of successes for far-right nationalist parties across Europe. That hasn’t happened. First in Austria, then in the Netherlands, and now in France, the spiritual home of European democracy, the extremists have been defeated in national elections. For now, at least, it looks as if Trump’s success may have marked the crest of a right-wing wave, rather than the upsurge.

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Victory for the Macronites as Europe sighs in relief–Ensemble, La France

In Sunday’s election, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, virtually doubled the share of the vote that her father, Jean-Marie, received in the 2002 Presidential election. But she didn’t get close to the forty per cent that she had breached in some opinion polls. Surveys taken in the past couple of weeks indicated that Macron would win by somewhere between twenty and twenty-five percentage points. In the event, his margin of victory was about thirty-one percentage points—65.5 per cent to 34.5 per cent. (This according to the French exit poll, which is much more reliable than its American counterpart.)

The endorsements Macron received from politicians of the center-right and center-left after he came out on top in the first round of voting helped his cause a lot, as did the critical coverage that almost all of the French media meted out to Le Pen. But, even allowing for these factors, the final result represented a stirring victory for a thirty-nine-year-old former technocrat and investment banker who had never run for office, and who only founded his independent political movement, En Marche!, last April.

In an address at his campaign headquarters, in the Fifteenth Arrondissement, shortly after the result was announced, Macron sought to project an image of himself as a sober and mature leader, someone fully prepared to enter the Élysée Palace. He also recapitulated some of the themes of his campaign, including his defense of liberal values, his support for the European Union, and his embrace of hope and optimism. “I will protect and defend France’s vital interests. I will protect and defend Europe,” he declared. He added, “It is a new page in our long history, and I want that page to be a page of trust and hope recovered.”

After thanking the outgoing President, François Hollande, for his services to the country, Macron said he would seek to overcome the divisions in French society that the campaign had highlighted. His main goal, he said, was to “calm people’s fears, restore France’s confidence, and gather all its people together to face the immense challenges that face us.” He went on, “I will fight against the division . . . With humility but with total devotion and total determination, I am going to serve on your behalf. Long live the Republic, and long live France.”

As this speech indicated, Macron is stronger on generalizations and appeals for unity than specific policy proposals. During the campaign, he pledged to cut government spending, reform the tax code, and loosen up France’s rigid labor markets—all this in an effort to make the French economy more dynamic. But he didn’t spell out many details.

On the French left, he is widely seen as the Gallic equivalent of Tony Blair, a youthful figure intent on forcing trade unions and workers to submit to the rigors of the global market. Skeptical conservative politicians point out that he served in Hollande’s Socialist government for four years, and that he promised not to scrap two pillars of the French welfare state: the thirty-five-hour work week and the retirement age, sixty-two.

It is unclear what sort of mandate Macron will have for carrying out his reform program. To a large extent, his first-place finish in the first round of the election represented a rejection of the traditional parties rather than a vigorous endorsement of his agenda. Hollande didn’t even enter the race because he is so unpopular. The candidate of the center-right Republican party, François Fillon, saw his campaign undone by a corruption scandal.

Similarly, Macron’s victory in Sunday’s runoff may have largely represented a rejection of Le Pen and the National Front, with its record of racism, anti-Semitism, and apologies for Vichyism. According to the exit poll, forty-three per cent of Macron’s voters cast their ballots primarily to keep out Le Pen. Although Macron’s margin was large, turnout was low by French standards, and many ballots were left blank. Clearly, lots of voters didn’t like either of the choices.

Much now depends on next month’s parliamentary elections, which will determine how much support Macron has in the National Assembly, which makes legislation. At the moment, the Socialists and their allies have a sizable majority. Macron’s En Marche! party is planning to field candidates in all five hundred and seventy-seven constituencies, but it’s far from clear how they will fare. Despite his personal victory, his centrist political movement is still young and untested.

Untitled (5)Through Inclusivity, Collaboration and Cooperartion

There is also a great deal of uncertainty about what impact Sunday’s result will have on the future of the E.U. By removing the possibility of a Le Pen Presidency, Macron’s victory lifted the gravest immediate threat to the union: a deeply Euro-skeptic government taking office in Paris, to go along with the one in London. Even before Macron arrived at the Louvre, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had called and congratulated him. “She praised him for championing a united European Union that is open to the world,” Merkel’s spokesman said.

But one election result doesn’t mean that the E.U., which has just suffered through a lost decade in economic terms, can now mobilize enough popular support to survive and prosper. Macron supports open borders, free trade, free movement of labor, and greater efforts to accommodate refugees and assimilate Muslim minorities—all of which are under threat. His big idea is that, by showing that France is capable of serious internal reforms, the country will be able to persuade Germany to shift the E.U. toward a less austere economic policy, one more favorable to growth. Previous French Presidents have harbored similar ambitions that went nowhere in the face of Teutonic resistance. Can Macron do better?

But these are challenges for the future. Right now, it is enough to celebrate the defeat of right-wing extremism and to salute the victor. “What we have done, there is no comparison, there is no equivalent for that,” Macron told the cheering crowd outside the Louvre. “Everyone was saying it was impossible, but they didn’t know anything about France.” After he had finished speaking, the President-elect clutched his hand to his heart, closed his eyes, and led the crowd in a spirited rendition of “La Marseillaise.” Even from afar, it was hard not to join in.

Macron beats Le Pen for the Presidency of France


May 8, 2017

Macron beats Le Pen for the Presidency of France

by Angelique Chrisafis

Congratulations to the People of  France for a successful and peaceful  Presidential Election. They have chosen to stay in the EU and rejected populism and far right politics of Marine Le Pen.  A strong,  and inclusive France is good for the European Union. A united prosperous Europe will also be a boon for the world.

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Vive La France

Working with Germany and others including Asia, France can counter-balance Trumpism (America First) and Theresa May’s inward looking post BREXIT Britain,  and resist the tide of isolationism and economic protectionism.

In globalised interdependent world, we need cooperation, commitment to peace, stability and prosperity, and strategic partnerships to tackle economic nationalism, terrorism,  environmental  degradation, climate change, and poverty. –Din Merican

The pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidency in a decisive victory over the far-right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, and vowed to unite a divided and fractured France.

Macron, 39, a former Economy Minister who ran as a “neither left nor right” independent promising to shake up the French political system, took 65.1% to Le Pen’s 34.9%, according to initial projections from early counts.

His victory was hailed by his supporters as holding back a tide of populism after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US election.

In a solemn first speech from his campaign headquarters, he vowed to “defend France and Europe”. He promised to “unite” a divided and fractured France that had led people to vote for “extremes”. He said that he would “fight with all my strength against the division that undermines and destroys us”.

He promised to “guarantee the unity of the nation” and “fight against all forms of inequality and discrimination”.

Despite the wide margin of the final result, Le Pen’s score nonetheless marked a historic high for the French far right. Even after a lacklustre campaign that ended with a calamitous performance in the final TV debate, she was projected to have taken almost 11 million votes, double that of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he reached the presidential run-off in 2002. The anti-immigration, anti-EU Front National’s supporters asserted that the party has a central place as an opposition force in France.

Turnout was the lowest in more than 40 years. Almost one-third of voters chose neither Macron nor Le Pen, with 12 million abstaining and 4.2 million spoiling ballot papers.

Macron, who has never held elected office and was unknown until three years ago, is France’s youngest president. Next Sunday he will take over a country under a state of emergency, still facing a major terrorism threat and struggling with a stagnant economy after decades of mass unemployment. France is also divided after an election campaign in which anti-establishment anger saw the traditional left and right ruling parties ejected from the race in the first round for the first time since the period after the second world war.

François Bayrou, an ex-minister and Macron’s centrist ally, said: “He is the youngest head of state on the planet [which] sends an incredible message of hope.” He added: “Macron is giving hope to people who had no hope. Hope that maybe we can do something, go beyond the [left-right] divide that no longer makes sense.”

Le Pen swiftly conceded defeat. She said she had won a “historic and massive” score which made her leader of “the biggest opposition force” in France and vowed to radically overhaul her Front National party. Her promise to “transform” the far-right movement left open the possibility that the party could be expanded and renamed in an attempt to boost its electoral chances. It was a major step in the political normalisation of her movement.

The outgoing Socialist President, François Hollande, who was once Macron’s mentor and had appointed him economy minister, said: “His large victory confirms that a very great majority of our citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union and show France is open to the world.”

Macron’s supporters gathered, waving French flags, in the grand courtyard of the Louvre, the vast Paris palace-turned-museum.

Macron’s victory came not only because voters supported his policy platform for free market, pro-business reform, and his promises to energise the EU, coupled with a leftwing approach to social issues. Some of his voters came from other parties across the political spectrum and turned out not in complete support of his programme but to stop the Front National.

In a political landscape with a strong hard left and far right, Macron faces the challenge of trying to win a parliamentary majority for his fledgling political movement En Marche! (On the Move) in legislative elections next month. Without a majority he will not be able to carry out his manifesto promises.

After the Brexit vote and the election of Trump as US president, the race for the Élysée was the latest election to shake up establishment politics by kicking out the figures that stood for the status quo, ejecting the mainstream parties that have dominated French politics for 50 years and leaving the political novice Macron to do battle with the far right.

His victory comes after a bitter campaign with Le Pen in which she accused him of being part of an elite that did not understand ordinary people and he said Le Pen represented the “party of hatred” that wanted a “civil war” in France. The runoff pitted France’s most Europhile candidate against its most Europhobe.

In Brussels and Berlin there was relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalisation programme has been defeated.

A spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said it was a “victory for a strong and united Europe” while the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said French voters had chosen a “European future”.

The office of the British prime minister, Theresa May, said she “warmly congratulates” Macron on his victory and “we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities”.

Trump, who will meet Macron on 25 May at the Nato summit in Brussels, tweeted: “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next president of France. I look very much forward to working with him!” Earlier in the campaign he had declared Le Pen the strongest candidate.

Hours before the end of campaigning on Friday night, Macron’s campaign was hacked, which Paris prosecutors are investigating. Hundreds of thousands of emails and documents were dumped online and spread by WikiLeaks in what his campaign called an attempt at “democratic destabilisation”.

Macron, a former investment banker and senior civil servant who grew up in a bourgeois family in Amiens, served as deputy chief of staff to Hollande but was not at that time part of the Socialist party.

In 2014 Hollande appointed him Economy Minister but he left government in 2016, complaining that pro-business reforms were not going far enough. A year ago he formed En Marche!, promising to shake up France’s “vacuous” and discredited political class.

Macron campaigned on pledges to ease labour laws, improve education in deprived areas and extend protections for self-employed people.

The election race was full of extraordinary twists and turns. Hollande became the first president since the war to decide not to run again for office after slumping to record unpopularity with a satisfaction rating of 4%.

His troubled five-year term left France still struggling with a sluggish economy and a mood of disillusionment with the political class. The country is more divided than ever before. More than 230 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in little more than two years, the political class is questioning Islam’s place in French society and more than 3 million people are unemployed.

The right wing candidate, François Fillon, once seen as favourite, was badly damaged by a judicial investigation into a string of corruption allegations, including that he had paid his wife and children generous salaries from public funds for fake parliamentary assistant jobs.

The ruling Socialist party, under its candidate Benoît Hamon, saw its score plunge to 6%, while the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon finished fourth.

The final round marks a redrawing of the political landscape, away from the old left-right divide towards a contest between a liberal, pro-globalisation stance and “close the borders” nationalism. Le Pen has styled the election as being between her party’s “patriots” and the “globalists” whom she says Macron represents.