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Macron’s Mission

The centrist Emmanuel Macron’s success in the first round of the French presidential election is likely to re-energize Europe. But Macron’s plurality of the popular vote was narrow, and a much larger share of French voters showed support for a very different political vision.

PRINCETON – The centrist Emmanuel Macron’s success in the first round of the French presidential election is likely to re-energize Europe. Unlike the other candidates, Macron does not just recognize the need for radical change to the European Union; he supports bringing it through Europe-wide cooperation. But Macron’s plurality of the popular vote was narrow, and a much larger share of French voters showed support for a very different political vision.

It is a vision of nostalgia and isolation espoused by Macron’s rival in the second round, the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen. Her slogan – “on est chez nous” (we are at home) – underscores her focus on enclosing France in a national cocoon that resists “wild globalization.”

But Le Pen was not alone in promoting this vision. One of the candidates who finished fourth, the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also built his candidacy on simplistic economic populism. For example, like Le Pen, he promised a radical reduction in the retirement age, without explaining how to finance it.

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