France’s election sees two mainstream parties knocked out for first time

The election was the first time the country’s two mainstream political parties had been knocked out in the first round of voting since the Second World War.

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Pro-European Union centrist Emmanuel Macron has pledged to unite a divided France after sweeping to victory in the final round of a historic presidential election.

While anti-establishment sentiment in France – which also characterised the UK’s Brexit vote and the ascendance of Donald Trump to the US presidency – was epitomised by Le Pen, Macron’s win also marked a breakdown in traditional French politics.

The election was the first time the country’s two mainstream political parties had been knocked out in the first round of voting since the Second World War.

That’s not the only reason this election was extraordinary: it saw anti-immigration Le Pen’s Front National clawing its way from the fringes with a projected 11 million votes, an historic gain; turnout was the lowest in decades as millions abstained in protest; and it was dogged by corruption scandals and claims of external interference, in particular from Russia.

As Europe, investors and liberal observers worldwide breathed a sigh of relief that the business- and EU-friendly Macron had held off what is seen as a tide of populism, analysts warned that optimism should be tempered.

Jessica Hinds, European economist at Capital Economics, noted that Le Pen is looking to rebrand and normalise her party, while Macron’s growth-boosting reforms, starting with an overhaul of France’s rigid labour market, may have to be watered down.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that Macron can deliver at least some of his reforms. But it will not be an easy task,” she said, noting that any failure may serve to bolster further support for his populist rival.

Public Finance International

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