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Why the EU Election Was a Win for Macron

Although the far-right National Rally edged out La République en Marche ! in the European Parliament election, broader trends in European politics now look favorable for French President Emmanuel Macron. His party will now lead a pivotal centrist bloc, and will be able to work closely with the newly reinforced Greens on crucial reforms.

PARIS – Though the final vote tally might seem to suggest otherwise, the European Parliament elections were a strategic success for French President Emmanuel Macron. There are four reasons why this is so.

First, Macron succeeded in framing the election as a contest between progressives and populists. Though he has been assailed at home in recent months – including by some on his own “side” – it is worth remembering that this message did not emerge out of thin air. Rather, it harks back to Macron’s 2017 presidential campaign, which itself tapped into a broader political sea change taking place across Europe. In that election, he overcame the traditional right-left divide. Two years later, this was replicated in the European Parliament elections.

Historically, the Republicans on the right and the Socialists on the left have dominated French politics. Yet these parties’ combined share of the popular vote was under 15%, whereas Macron’s La République en Marche ! won 22.4%, and the far-right National Rally (formerly the National Front) picked up 23.3%. Behind these figures is an unprecedented collapse of the mainstream French right, which has failed to reconcile identity politics with traditional liberalism. Though some French conservatives have migrated to the National Rally, much of the center-right electorate has gravitated toward Macron’s party, owing to efforts by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe (formerly of the Republicans).

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