Macron Proposes Deep Reform, including Reducing Number of MPs, Lifting State of Emergency

Macron

In a ceremonial address to parliament, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged on Monday that he would seek to implement “deep reform”, which would include reducing the number of lawmakers and ending the country’s state of emergency.

He said that a parliament with a lower number of MPs and with strengthened means, will be able to operate with greater ease.

He added that he would seek direct approval from voters in a referendum if parliament failed to sign off his intended institutional reforms quickly enough.

Elected only two months ago by a hefty majority, Macron told the lawmakers of both houses, summoned especially to the Palace of Versailles, that he wanted to cut the number of lawmakers by a third, curb the executive’s role in naming magistrates, and introduce a “dose” of proportional representation.

Macron’s upstart Republic on the Move (LREM) party has secured a comfortable majority in the National Assembly – but France’s youngest leader since Napoleon made clear his impatience to complete the reshaping of the political landscape that he has begun.

“The French people are not driven by patient curiosity, but by an uncompromising demand. It is a profound transformation that they expect,” Macron told the specially convened joint session of parliament.

“I want all these deep reforms that our institutions seriously need to be done within a year. These reforms will go to parliament but, if necessary, I will put them to voters in a referendum.”

Macron also pressed his case for reform of Europe.

An ardent advocate of deeper European Union integration who put reviving Europe’s Franco-German axis and treaty reform at the center of his presidential campaign, Macron said excessive bureaucracy had fueled euroskepticism among the public.

“The last 10 years have been cruel for Europe. We have managed crises but we have lost our way,” Macron said.

“I firmly believe in Europe, but I don’t find this skepticism unjustified.”

Macron, whose centrist platform has routed both the traditional rightist and leftist parties of government, is not the first French leader to convene a so-called Congress of both houses, though past presidents have tended to use it in times of crisis or for constitutional reforms.

He also vowed to lift a state of emergency that has been in place since 2015, but also to harden permanent security measures to fight extremism and other threats.

Macron said his government “will work to prevent any new attack, and we will work to fight (the assailants) without pity, without regrets, without weakness.”

At the same time, he insisted on the need to “guarantee full respect for individual liberties” amid concerns that new measures would allow police too many powers.

Macron vowed to maintain France’s military interventions against extremists abroad, especially in Africa’s Sahel region and in Iraq and Syria. He also insisted on the importance of maintaining “the path of negotiation, of dialogue” for long-term solutions.

Macron also announced Europe-wide public conferences later this year in an effort to reinvigorate the European Union after Britain’s vote to leave.

He said he understood why many Europeans see the EU as bureaucratic, distant and uncaring.
“I firmly believe in Europe, but I don’t find this skepticism unjustified,” he said.

He also said European countries should work more closely to help political refugees while fighting migrant-smuggling and strengthening borders against illegal migration.

Critics who fear Macron is trying to amass too much power organized protests over Monday’s event.

Lawmakers from the far-left party of Jean-Luc Melenchon and communists decided not to attend the speech in protest against what they call a “presidential monarchy”.

After his new centrist party dominated parliamentary elections and split the opposition, political rivals are comparing Macron to Napoleon, or the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter.

They are especially angry that he wants to strip worker protections through a decree-like procedure, allowing little parliamentary debate.

Macron also broke with tradition in convening the Versailles parliament session just one day before his prime minister is to face —and likely to win— his first confidence vote in parliament.

Paris Backs Kuwaiti Mediation to Resolve Qatar Crisis

Paris- French President Emmanuel Macron seems interested in playing an active political and diplomatic role in the international scene, including the Middle East and the Arab world, a month after reaching the Elysee palace.

According to high-ranking diplomats, Macron wants France to have its say in the Syrian conflict, the war on terrorism, the crisis in the Gulf and the Libyan file.

Regarding the war in Syria, Macron wants his country to launch a new political and diplomatic initiative that is in the making. As for the war on terror, Paris is closely involved in the Raqqa battle as it sees that French or former resident “extremists” are there and the mission of French special forces is to prevent them from returning to France and carrying out terrorist attacks.

On the Libyan file, Macron has assigned French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to communicate with influential regional parties who could affect warring sides in Libya. So the minister recently visited Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria.

The French FM also contacted involved Gulf parties and is expected to visit Moscow on June 20.

The Gulf file remains the most delicate and it has a different nature. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Macron is dedicated to containing the Qatari crisis.

France abstained from saying that it is carrying out a mediation between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt from one side and Qatar from the other, but it stressed that it backs the Kuwaiti mediation based on the principle that “the Gulf is capable of resolving its issues.”

Paris believes that the Middle East has its shares of wars and crises and doesn’t need a new crisis. It also believes in containing conflicts, maintaining stability and consolidating the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a move that is highly important for the war on terrorism.

Macron in Morocco on His First Official Visit Outside Europe

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron waves as he arrives to attend a handover ceremony with outgoing President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris

Paris – In his first official visit outside Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron will arrive in Rabat on Wednesday to meet with King Mohammed VI.

The visit was seen as an initiative by the new French president to stress his keenness to preserve excellent relations with the African country.

In parallel, the Elysee Palace announced in a statement that Macron held a phone conversation with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, adding that they agreed to boost their counter-terrorism cooperation and continue efforts to restore peace and stability in Libya and Mali.

The statement added that the discussions touched on a number of issues including the Libyan crisis and the situation in the Sahel region.

The two officials underlined their “common resolve to unify efforts to eradicate terrorism in the Sahel region,” according to the statement.

“The talks represented an opportunity for the two presidents to confirm their desire to reinforce friendship and cooperation relations between Algeria and France,” it added

In the same context, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian conducted a two-day visit to Algeria on Monday.

This visit was the first of a French official since the election of Macron.

Meanwhile, sources at the Elysee said that the French president and King Mohammed VI would develop bilateral relations and cooperation in security and the fight against terrorism.

Paris Preparing ‘New Initiative’ on Syria

Syria

Paris – France is working on devising a political-diplomatic initiative on the war on Syria. To that end it has been intensifying contacts on all sides, whether with the United States, Russia, members of the European Union or countries of the Arab Gulf.

Official French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the initiative will be announced at the appropriate time by President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to take Paris and Europe back to the scene of contacts after they have been marginalized in recent months.

They were marginalized with the launch of the Astana talks and Moscow’s semi-unilateral approach, whether on the military or diplomatic fronts, said the sources.

They added however that the French initiative needs time to “ripen” and its announcement is depends heavily on the situation on the international scene. It is also linked to the “ability to establish a new reality in which Russia and Iran realize that maintaining their current policy in Syria will be more costly to them than accepting a real political solution.”

Attention is now focused on the means to reach this “new reality” given that attention to the military operations has taken precedence over the political aspects of the Syrian conflict.

The main obstacle, said the French sources, is the United States because its State and Defense Departments have not yet completed their “revision” of Washington’s policy on Syria.

“The US does not have a political vision for the situation in Syria,” they added.

The sources said that the American policy has not gone beyond stressing the need to combat ISIS and terrorism.

Washington, the obstacle, could later turn into a helping factor if the administration of Donald Trump wanted to “translate the policy of containing Iran into reality.” It should start doing so in Syria.

Paris does not believe that the US is stalling in its revision of its policies because the administration of former President Barack Obama took up to six months to rewrite its policy on Afghanistan.

Until Washington “returns” to the scene, the Trump administration has ordered its diplomats to continue pressing for support for UN Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva talks, said the sources.

Washington however is not the only obstacle on the Syria scene as European countries have their own concerns. British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an electoral defeat that may see her leave her post. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is gearing up for elections in three months and Italy keeps moving from crisis to crisis, stated the French sources.

Europe therefore sees in Paris a crutch that it may lean on over the Syria file.

The Arab Gulf too has become distracted from the war in Syria. It was initially preoccupied with the conflict in Yemen and now it is embroiled in the diplomatic crisis with Qatar.

The Syrian opposition is also divided politically and militarily, which does not help the cause of those seeking to support them. The regime in Syria has meanwhile succeeded in portraying to the world that the war pits it against extremists, whether from ISIS or al-Nusra Front.

Paris believes that the series of Geneva talks are “running around in circles” and therefore cannot be relied upon to reach a political solution. The Astana talks, which were a product of Russian efforts, are not better of, continued the sources.

The Astana talks have resulted in the emergence of two camps that are involved in the Syrian conflict, said the sources. On the one hand there is the camp of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Jordan and on the other, there is a camp that includes Americans, Russians and Jordanians. They have several differences, such as Turkey’s demands that its forces not be targeted in attacks or Iranian-backed militias’ reluctance to respect the de-escalation zones. Other disputes center on the demarcation of borders and the return of refugees back to their homes.

The French sources said that the disputes that have emerged at Astana reveal that Syria today is truly divided between a Turkish region, regime-controlled one, a third controlled by ISIS and a fourth by the opposition forces.

Paris believes that as long as a new political dynamic to reach a political solution is not launched then attention will be focused on how to practically manage these regions, added the sources. The main question is however how can this fragmented reality be transformed into a basis for launching a political project and provide international pressure than can find this desired dynamic?

This is what Paris is seeking and what Macron wants to work on.

Despite the bleakness of the scene and based on the talks he held with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the French sources said that “there is room to maneuver that we can work with.”

They revealed that Russia demonstrated that it is willing to exert efforts to resolve the Syrian file. What price it wants in return remains a mystery. Iran meanwhile appears to be very committed to its stances and is unrelenting in its absolute support of the Syrian regime, which France believes is weak.

“The success the regime has achieved are not really its own, but they were possible through Iran’s militias and others that Iran is leading under Russian cover,” said the sources.

Four main excuses to convince Moscow

At this point, Moscow once again appears as if it is the “mother of all knots” that should be worked with because its position on Syria could be decisive. Paris therefore wants to “persuade” Moscow to employ its influence in Syria to push for a solution.

To that end it first wants to convince Russia that the regime will not be able to impose its control throughout Syria before several months. Even if the war does end, the refugees will not be able to return to their country and the reconstruction process will not take place without a political solution, explained the sources.

The third excuse is that implementing Trump’s policy in Syria of containing Iran will create tension and possibly even lead to a war that is wider than the one raging at the moment. The fourth excuse to be used to convince Russia on Syria is that all of the above will harm its interests. Contributing to the solution today, will be less costly than continuing in its old policy.

Will Paris succeed in persuading Moscow? This question is difficult to answer today, but it is certain that if the current game in Syria persists, then its results will be catastrophic on the country, region and beyond, said the French sources.

Saudi FM Says Qatar Policies on Supporting Extremist Groups Must Change

Paris- Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Tuesday said that Qatar needs to take a number of steps to guarantee relinquishing its support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood should it wish to reestablish ties with the major Arab powers that had severed their relations with the Gulf country on Monday.

Jubeir said Qatar knew exactly what to do to restore relations with Riyadh and its Arab allies.

“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back regarding its support of extremist groups, its hostile media and interference in affairs of other countries,” Jubeir told reporters in Paris.

“Nobody wants to hurt Qatar. It has to choose whether it must move in one direction or another direction”.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and several other countries on Monday severed all ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

“We took this step with great pain so that it understands that these policies are not sustainable and must change,” Jubeir said.

Jubeir added that Qatar was undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt in its support of Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood.

“We don’t think this is good. Qatar has to stop these policies so that it can contribute to stability in the Middle East,” he said.

“We believe that common sense and logic will convince Qatar to take the right steps.”

He said the “fairly large cost” on Qatar’s economy would convince it to change its policies.

Jubeir held talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris.  French President Emmanuel Macron had recently named Le Drian Minster for Europe and Foreign Affairs. 

Upon his appointment, Le Drian invited Jubeir so that they go over bilateral relations, means of enhancing them and joint efforts exerted to combat terrorism and extremism, in addition to the developments on the regional and international arenas.

Hot topics like finding a political solution for Syria and regime head Bashar al-Assad stepping down from power and how important it is for a healthy political transition were discussed. 

Edouard Philippe … Most Prominent Chess Piece in Macron’s Game

Philippe

Paris – The appointment of Edouard Philippe, mayor of the French coastal city of Le Havre in the Normandy region, as the prime minister of the first government under new President Emmanuel Macron did not come as a surprise.

This politician, who abandoned his parliamentary seat to dedicate himself to the service of his city, which is France’s top container port and ranks second after Marseille in maritime activity, was the right man at the right place. Macron was seeking a new and young prime minister, who has not been worn down by politics or marred in scandal.

He wanted a man from the right, who could be the symbol or embodiment of his political philosophy and the “En Marche!” movement that seeks to go beyond the left and right altogether.

Macron began his political career in the Socialist Party. He was the economic aide of former President Francois Hollande and then became assistant secretary of the presidential palace before being appointed as economy minister in Manuel Valls’ cabinet.

In other words, Marcron did not need a certificate of good behavior from the left because he grew up among it. He instead needed this certificate from the right. Snagging Edouard Philippe from the right Republican Party was good achievement due to this politician’s character and the repercussions his appointment had among the ranks of the right. The naming of Bruno Le Maire, as minister of economy, and Gérald Darmanin, as minister of finance, both members of the right, also had similar repercussions.

These appointments could lead to the fragmentation of the right ahead of the parliamentary elections that are set for June 11 and 18.

A lot has been written about Edouard Philippe. A documentary called “Edouard, mon pote de droite” was even made about him.

The politician has never occupied a ministerial position. He became involved in politics at an early age when he joined the Socialist Party when he was still a student. He became close to the reformists, who were then represented by former Prime Minister Michel Rocard. Eventually however, he started to lean more towards the moderate right and soon became one of the most loyal supporters of former Prime Minister Alain Juppe.

In truth, Macron and Philippe have many points in common. They both hail from Normandy. The former was born in Amiens and the latter in Rouen. They both pursued the same academic path at Sciences Po in Paris and later the National School of Administration (ENA) that produces the administrative and political elite in France.

The two men share almost the same mentality, with Philippe saying of Macron that “he thinks like him almost 90 percent of the time.”

They both practice the same sport: boxing. Macron practiced it for a while before stopping, while Philippe kept at it three times a week until he was named prime minister.

Traditionally, ENA graduates automatically kick off their career at a government post where they either remain or branch out to the private sector. This is the path Macron took, as did Philippe. The former went on to work at the Rothschild bank before working for Hollande, while the latter specialized in public procurement law. Politics soon beckoned however and he joined the team of former Le Havre mayor Antoine Rufenacht, who made Philippe his political heir in the municipal council and in parliament.

Juppe’s Student and Aide

Philippe owes his political rise to Juppe, who used his expertise for the establishment of the Union for a Popular Movement in 2002. The Movement sought to bring together the right and center and ensured the election of Jacques Chirac as president. Philippe served as director of the movement. He preserved his excellent ties with Juppe and when he was appointed environment minister in 2007, Philippe was one of his aides. When Juppe decided to run in the Republican Party primary elections, Philippe was named his spokesman.

Philippe later served in many local posts in his city and region. In 2010, he “inherited” the mayorship of Le Havre from Rufenacht. He was also as a substitute to MP Jean-Yves Besselat and later took his seat in parliament after his death in 2012. Becoming a lawmaker does not mean that he was active in discussions or in presenting draft-laws, but he was among the most active MPs in regards to practical work.

After succeeding Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, Philippe sought to confirm that he belongs to the right. Voting figures from recent parliamentary sessions revealed that he consistently voted for the right. He even voted against a draft-law presented by Macron when he was economy minister.

In 2016, he voted against the so-called El Khomri law, named after then Labor Minister Myriam El- Khomri who is of Moroccan descent, even though it follows the philosophy of the right in that it reduces the burden on employers and makes it easier for companies to sack employees. It should be noted that Macron vowed to Philippe and Le Maire to prepare a new Labor Law that will be more radical in its changes that the El Khomri Law. The right had said that Khomri’s law “did not go far enough” in reforms.

On the other hand, the new prime minister is criticized for being close to the “nuclear lobby” in France because he had previously worked for the Areva nuclear industries company. He became director of public affairs at the company in 2007, but in effect he was responsible for keeping tabs on lawmakers who supported the nuclear industry and stand against those who opposed it. More than 70 percent of France’s energy is produced by nuclear generators.

During that time, it was said that Philippe opposed environmental-ecological policies and he later rejected the reduction in the country’s dependence on nuclear power. He justified his stances by constantly saying that given the choice between preserving the environment and job opportunities, he would choose the latter.

Philippe, and consequently Macron, came under fire from environmentalists for these stances. The new prime minister could find himself at loggerheads with current Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition Nicolas Hulot, a fierce defender of the environment and an advocate of France gradually abandoning nuclear power.

Drawing Hulot to join the cabinet was among Macron’s political successes because the minister had previously rejected offers from former President Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy to become a minister.

Despite these reservations, Philippe’s appointment was a “masterstroke” by Macron because he will not only be head of the government, but also the parliamentary majority that the new president is seeking to garner in the upcoming elections. The president is banking that the appointment of three right-wing politicians to head his cabinet, finance and economy ministries will help fragment the ranks of the Republicans and pave the way to reshuffling the French political scene.

Days before the elections, the right-wingers presented a petition calling for “accepting the extended hand” of the president, meaning agreeing to cooperate with him after the polls. Among those right-wingers is Juppe, who believes that France “cannot remain in a constant state of political civil war.”

Political Revamp

Indeed, Macron is seeking to “revamp” the political scene in France and he is hoping that the parliamentary elections will help him achieve this goal. This is possible seeing as he succeeded during his presidential electoral campaign from fragmenting the socialist left by luring its voters. He is seeking to do the same with the right and the Republican leaders have become aware of this. In fact, opinion polls indicate that his renamed “La Republique En Marche” party will win the elections. It remains to be seen whether he will obtain the absolute majority.

Macron therefore believes that having a right-wing prime minister and two right-wing ministers by his side will help ease the crisis of the right-wing voter, who will have to choose between a president who translates his words into actions or remain in the same narrow partisan corner that has proved its inefficiency in the presidential elections.

“La Republique En Marche” has gone so far as to abstain from fielding its own candidates in some electoral districts where right-wingers are running because they had received a pledge that they will join their presidential majority after the elections.

France is therefore drawing near a new electoral challenge after the unprecedented presidential campaign. Philippe has had a major role in this success because he is a main chess piece in the game that Macron plays so well. The prime minister is being sought to be portrayed as the embodiment of the presidential will to alter political practice and pump new blood in it, achieve equality between men and women, allow the civil society to come to power and overcome old trenches and barriers.

Macron wanted his government to be a reflection of his image. He also wanted his prime minister to be new and yet have political experience and be able to lead and oversee the governmental team. The new president has repeatedly said that he wants to return to the classical concept of the presidency whereby the “president presides and the government governs.”

Will Philippe be able to fill this seat and perform his duties? Only the future holds the answer.

Macron: Time to Bring Self-confidence Back to the French

France

Paris – At around 10 AM, the new French President Emmanuel Macron, arrived at the 18th century Elysee palace in a Renault armored car and walked up the red carpet to the Elysee steps where outgoing President Francois Hollande waited to welcome him. On the right, advisors and staff of former president stood to welcome the new president, while on reporters stood on the left to record this day in the history of the French republic.

The two men shook hands and went up to the president’s office where they met for a private talk before the official ceremony.

About 300 guests, including ministers, politicians, officials, and Macron’s family attended Macron’s inauguration inside the Elysee’s reception hall Salon Murant in the building’s west wing.

Macron has officially become the eighth president of France’s Fifth Republic and the youngest in history.

The press had to wait over three hours because the presidential traditions include a 40 minutes meeting between the former president and the new one, during which the new president is informed of the “secrets” of the state and agreements as well as the nuclear codes.

At around 11 AM, Macron delivered his first speech as the president after president of the constitutional council, Laurent Fabius proclaimed his official authorities.

Traditionally, the president of constitutional council announces the official election results, but unlike the customs, Fabius delivered a speech and it sounded as if he was laying the way for a new sovereignty and new politics for France. Observers also hinted that Fabius had his own aspirations of becoming the president. Like Macron, Fabius was the youngest prime minister in the history of French republic. He was only 37 years old.

He cited François-René de Chateaubriand, one of the country’s intellectuals and conservatives of the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, to describe Macron saying he was “man of his times”.

“Chateaubriand wrote a formula that fully makes sense: ‘To be a man of his country, one must be a man of his times,” Fabius said. He added that Macron was both, but then urged him to reach out to everyone, an important exhortation for the new president.

Fabius advised Macron to calm the anger, repair the wounds, alleviate the doubts, show the road forward and embody the hopes of France.

In his first speech as president, which lasted a little over 10 minutes, Macron said France had chosen “hope”. He returned to the basics of his presidential campaign without dwelling on details.

“The whole world has watched our presidential election,” the new president said, adding: “The responsibility with which they have entrusted me is an honor. The world and Europe have today, more than ever, a need for France. They want a France that is sure of its destiny. The world needs what French men and woman have always taught it, freedom, equality and fraternity.”

He said France was not in decline, but at the start of an extraordinary renaissance, adding that he would boost employment, protect companies and engage with French people who feel ignored.

“We will need a more efficient, more democratic and more political Europe, because it is the instrument of our power and of our sovereignty,” Macron said.

The young president is aware of the challenges he’ll face internally and externally to which he vowed to take full responsibility whenever the occasion requires whether the immigration crisis or fighting terrorism.

Concerning France, Macron said his presidency would be guided by two concerns: finding ways to help the French have confidence in themselves again and making France prosperous and strong.

The challenge of the next five years will be to avoid letting the country collapse, by spreading success, enlarging the field of opportunity, and ensuring, as Paris does so well, that everyone benefits from globalization and the openness of France.

After his speech, Macron paraded the French troops in the Elysees and then he chose to be driven by military jeep rather than civilian limousine to the Arc de Triomphe. Hundreds of French citizens and tourists stood on both sides of the avenue to see the president’s convoy amid tightened security measures.

He stood in the rain to light the flame in tribute to France’s war dead at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Observers believe that the time Macron dedicated to salute the military officials in Elysees, then at the Arc de Triomphe and using a military vehicle reflects his will to inform the armed forces that he is determined and ready to hear their demands.

He also wanted to emphasize France’s defence strength at a time when the country is still under a state of emergency after a series of terrorist attacks, and currently has thousands of troops involved in military operations abroad.

Macron then added his own extra appointment by making a personal visit to a military hospital where he went to the bedside of soldiers wounded on operations in Mali and Afghanistan.

The new president concluded his day by visiting the municipality of Paris where he was received by the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo on the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, city hall.

Macron still has to name a new prime minister.

On Monday, Macron will fly to Berlin to meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. It is traditional for French leaders to make Berlin their first European trip.

Cabinet Selections to Rock France after Macron Win

Macron

Paris – Despite his sweeping victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, elected French president Emmanuel Macron’s job will not be easy, the way carved to the Élysée Palace is not a bed of roses.

After the excitement of winning simmers, Macron’s task on overcoming two challenges needs to be swiftly attended– first, the President-elect has to form a cohesive cabinet that reflects his campaign promises on renovating French political life.

In order to establish a strong administration, Macron needs to bypass right wing and left wing polarization, open up to civil society and uphold principles of gender equality.

Second of all, Macron needs to secure a parliamentary majority to support his policy-making and help him follow through on his vision for France. Achieving the second goal requires the preparation of a list of candidates for the legislative elections scheduled for June 11 and 18.

There is a wide-held consensus that Macron’s victory will not be complete without it “blowing” out the traditional major parties within government walls. Moving past bi-polarization means practically reshaping the French political scene and repositioning politicians on both sides.

The presidential election left France’s traditional parties on the sidelines, with the conservative Republicans and ruling Socialists eliminated in the first round, and Macron facing Le Pen in last week’s run off.

Macron has said half of the candidates for his year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move) for the 577 seats up for grabs in June 11-18 elections will be new to politics.

So far the names of only 14 candidates are known, but on Thursday afternoon “around 450” will be revealed, Jean-Paul Delevoye of Republic on the Move said.

The party has received and filtered through some 15,000 applications submitted online since 19 January, a representative of the movement said.

This week former prime minister Manuel Valls shocked his Socialist party by saying it was “dead” and announcing he wanted to be a candidate under Macron’s banner.

But an official said Wednesday that Valls had not yet fulfilled the criteria to be a candidate.

The Republicans party, whose candidate Francois Fillon crashed out in the first round of the presidential election after being charged over giving his wife allegedly “fake” jobs on the public payroll, is also aiming to become the majority party in parliament.

That would force Macron, who will be inaugurated on Sunday, to share power with them in what is known as a “cohabitation” in France.

A poll showed that only 52 percent of voters want a pro-Macron government to emerge from the elections, while 42 percent favored a legislature that would be a check on the new leader.

Optimism seemed muted too, with 55 percent of respondents to the Elabe survey saying they thought Macron would “not improve things for the French people”.

Unemployment, Terrorism, Europe Are Macron’s Main Challenges

Macron

Paris – French President-elect Emmanuel Macron will face major internal and global challenges represented in lowering unemployment rates, fighting terrorism and reforming the European Union.

France faces high unemployment rates that have reached 10 percent, while terrorist attacks against the European country have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians since 2015.

The European Union, for its part, has been witnessing severe divisions and a major identity crisis, which was mainly incited by the exit of Britain.

Macron was elected president of France on Sunday, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

France’s Interior Ministry said that with all ballots counted early Monday, Macron won 66.1 percent of the vote, whereas Le Pen got 33.9 percent.

In remarks following the release of the first projections, Le Pen said she had congratulated Macron, adding that she was satisfied with the results achieved by her National Front. However, Le Pen called on all patriots “to join us” in constituting a “new political force” during the upcoming legislative elections.

On Monday, Macron attended his first official ceremony, when he joined outgoing French President Francois Hollande to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

The president-elect resigned from his post as the leader of “En Marche!” political party on Monday.

Catherine Barbaroux has been named as interim leader of the movement, which changed its name to “République En Marche”.

In a news conference, Richard Ferrand, the party’s secretary-general said: “The first act of the recasting of our political life ended yesterday with the accession of Emmanuel Macron to the presidency of the Republic.”

He added the movement would begin the battle for the legislative elections and campaign under the new name.

The two-round legislative elections are scheduled to take place on June 11 and June 18 to elect the 577 members of the National Assembly.

When he moves into the Elysée Palace after his inauguration on Sunday, Macron will become the eighth – and youngest – president of France’s Fifth Republic.

Macron Elected President as France Commits to Europe

Macron

Paris – The French people elected on Sunday centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, as their new president, to become the youngest head of the republic. The former economy minister emphatically defeated his rival National Front leader Marine Le Pen by a large margin of 65.9 percent of the vote to 34.1.

Through their choice, the French people rejected populism and committed to the European Union, which Le Pen had vowed to leave should she have been elected. Despite her defeat however, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.

Even though he achieved a resounding victory, Macron’s election was marked by a high number of people who abstained from the vote, while numerous others voted blank.

Macron’s election was met with a sigh of relief across Europe.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the victory, tweeting: “France has and will always be at the heart of Europe.”

The sentiment was echoed by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that the French chose a “European future.”

After winning the first round two weeks ago, Macron had been accused of behaving as if he was already president. On Sunday night, with victory finally sealed, he was much more solemn.

“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television.

“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”

Later he strode alone almost grimly through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in central Paris to the strains of the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, not breaking into a smile until he mounted the stage of his victory rally to the cheers of his partying supporters.

His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for a political movement that is barely a year old, rebranded as La Republique En Marche (“Onward the Republic”), in order to implement his program.

Outgoing president Francois Hollande, who brought Macron into politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union”.

Juncker told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency.”

Macron spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he hopes to revitalize the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, saying he planned to visit Berlin shortly.

US President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win”, saying he looked forward to working with him. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was willing to help push Sino-French ties to a higher level, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated Macron.

The euro currency EUR=EBS, which had been rising for two weeks as the prospect receded that France would elect an anti-EU president, topped $1.10 in early Asian trading for the first time since the U.S. elections, before easing back. [FRX/]

“Fading political risk in France adds to the chance that euro zone economic growth can surprise to the upside this year,” said Holger Schmieding, an analyst at Berenberg Bank.

Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. A 39-year-old former investment banker, he served for two years as economy minister under Hollande but has never previously held elected office.

Le Pen, 48, said she had also offered her congratulations. But she defiantly claimed the mantle of France’s main opposition in calling on “all patriots to join us” in constituting a “new political force”.

Her tally was almost double the score that her father Jean-Marie, the last far-right candidate to make the presidential runoff, achieved in 2002, when he was trounced by the conservative Jacques Chirac.

Her high-spending, anti-globalization “France-first” policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions and security concerns.

Despite having served briefly in Hollande’s deeply unpopular Socialist government, Macron managed to portray himself as the man to revive France’s fortunes by recasting a political landscape molded by the left-right divisions of the past century.

“I’ve liked his youth and his vision from the start,” said Katia Dieudonné, a 35-year-old immigrant from Haiti who brought her two children to Macron’s victory rally.

“He stands for the change I’ve wanted since I arrived in France in 1985 – openness, diversity, without stigmatizing anyone … I’ve voted for the left in the past and been disappointed.”

Macron’s team successfully skirted several attempts to derail his campaign – by hacking its communications and distributing purportedly leaked documents – that were reminiscent of the hacking of Democratic Party communications during Hillary Clinton’s US election campaign.

Allegations by Macron’s camp that a massive computer hack had compromised emails added last-minute drama on Friday night, just as official campaigning was ending.

While Macron sees France’s way forward in boosting the competitiveness of an open economy, Le Pen wanted to shield French workers by closing borders, quitting the EU’s common currency, the euro, radically loosening the bloc and scrapping trade deals.

Macron will become the eighth – and youngest – president of France’s Fifth Republic when he moves into the Elysee Palace after his inauguration next weekend.

Opinion surveys taken before the second round suggested that his fledgling movement, despite being barely a year old, had a fighting chance of securing the majority he needed.

He plans to blend a big reduction in public spending and a relaxation of labor laws with greater investment in training and a gradual reform of the unwieldy pension system.

A European integrationist and pro-NATO, he is orthodox in foreign and defense policy and shows no sign of wishing to change France’s traditional alliances or reshape its military and peacekeeping roles in the Middle East and Africa.

His election also represents a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years.

He will be the youngest leader in the current Group of Seven (G7) major nations and has elicited comparisons with youthful leaders past and present, from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British ex-premier Tony Blair and even the late US president John F. Kennedy.

But any idea of a brave new political dawn will be tempered by an abstention rate on Sunday of around 25 percent, the highest this century, and by a record share of blank or spoiled ballots – submitted by more than 11 percent of those who did vote.

Many of those will have been supporters of the far-left maverick Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose high-spending, anti-EU, anti-globalization platform had many similarities with Le Pen’s.

Melenchon took 19 percent in coming fourth in the first round of the election, and pointedly refused to endorse Macron for the runoff.

France’s biggest labor union, the CFDT, welcomed Macron’s victory but said the National Front’s score was still worryingly high.

“Now, all the anxieties expressed at the ballot by a part of the electorate must be heard,” it said in a statement. “The feeling of being disenfranchised, of injustice, and even abandonment is present among a large number of our citizens.”

The more radical leftist CGT union called for a demonstration on Monday against “liberal” economic policies.

Like Macron, Le Pen will now have to work to try to convert her presidential result into parliamentary seats, in a two-round system that has in the past encouraged voters to cast ballots tactically to keep her out.

She has worked for years to soften the xenophobic associations that clung to the National Front under her father, going so far as to expel him from the party he founded.

On Sunday night, her deputy Florian Philippot distanced the movement even further from him by saying the new, reconstituted party would not be called “National Front”.