THE contours of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency are beginning to emerge, as the 39-year-old French head of state begins his first week in office. A day after his inauguration at a solemn ceremony at the Elysée Palace on May 14th, he named Edouard Philippe as his new prime minister. This is a coup of sorts. The centre-right Republican mayor of Le Havre, and a parliamentary deputy, Mr Philippe brings crucial political balance for a president whose own roots are on the left, and who promised to govern from the centre.
The symbolism of Mr Philippe’s appointment was as important as the practical political value it represents. When Mr Macron launched his political movement, En Marche! (“On the Move!”) in April 2016, he vowed to “unblock” France by overcoming the partisan differences between left and right. Since then, however, almost all of those who have defected to En Marche! have come from the left or the centre. The bulk of the Republicans, who want to form a solid block in parliament after legislative elections in June, have turned out to be immune to Mr Macron’s charms.
Mr Philippe, however, succumbed. He is the former right-hand man to Alain Juppé, a centre-right ex-prime minister who came second in the Republicans’ presidential primary late last year, and whose economic programme was broadly in line with Mr Macron’s. Although they are on opposite sides of the political divide, he shares “90%” of Mr Macron’s thinking, Mr Philippe once told a French newspaper. Like the new president, he was educated at the high-flying Ecole Nationale d’Administration, which has trained three of the past five presidents. But he will appear to the French public less as a product of the elite than as a fresh face. Relatively young at 46, born in provincial Normandy and with no ministerial experience, Mr Philippe in this sense fits Mr Macron’s promise to renew political life.
Equally important, Mr Philippe could help Mr Macron unlock further defections from the Republicans at a time when he badly needs to broaden his base if he is to form a stable government. Mr Macron’s movement currently has no deputies in the National Assembly elected under its banner, but says it will field candidates in most of France’s 577 constituencies. Now transformed into a political party and rebaptised La République en Marche! (“The Republic on the Move!”), polls suggest it could be the biggest party in the assembly after two-round elections on June 11th and 18th; but it may well fall short of a majority.
Mr Philippe could help make up that gap. He is likely to be joined by some other members of his party, such as Bruno Le Maire, a former Europe minister, who could be part of the government that Mr Macron is expected to announce tomorrow. Once the new team gets to work, it will have less than a month to persuade voters that it is worth backing with a proper legislative mandate in June. Given that Mr Macron wants to push through a controversial labour bill this summer, such support will be crucial.
The early signs are that the Macron presidency will be heavy in symbolism, and not just of a party-political nature. Mr Macron seems to have a carefully conceived idea of the sort of presidency he wants to embody. On the night of his victory, he prefaced his speech with a solitary walk out from under the arches of the Louvre, a former royal palace, to a stage in front of the modernist glass pyramid in its courtyard, accompanied by Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the European Union’s anthem. The spectacle spoke of Europe and France, old and new, the monarchy and the republic. On inauguration day, he rode upright in a jeep on the Champs-Elysées after his investiture, in a nod to Charles de Gaulle, founder of the Fifth Republic. Over the past decade, the French have worried that the office of the presidency has been badly damaged, whether by bling (Nicolas Sarkozy) or ineptitude (François Hollande). Mr Macron, it seems, is set on restoring the office’s dignity, as well as the country’s self-respect.
I don't have a particular question for you guys, you guys feel free to comment here. You guys can connect this article with our chapter 4 reading too.