France's Macron set for short honeymoon

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Emmanuel Macron faces stiff odds if he wins Presidential election second round

3 May 2017

  • Likely winner in Presidential election second round facing stiff odds to gain a majority of representatives in the National Assembly
  • Planned labour market reforms set stage for big clash with powerful French trade unions
  • Temptation for Macron will be to ‘act tough’ internationally – including hard stance on Brexit

Emmanuel Macron’s “honeymoon” could be short-lived if he wins this weekend’s Presidential election second round as expected, according to one of the UK’s foremost experts on French politics.

Jim Shields, Professor of French Politics at Aston University and author of ‘The Extreme Right in France: From Pétain to Le Pen’, the leading scholarly account of the rise of the Front National, said Mr Macron would quickly face an uphill struggle to secure a parliamentary mandate, as well as opposition to his planned labour market reforms.

Professor Shields said failure of Macron’s new En Marche! movement to make significant headway in the parliamentary polls on June 11th and 18th could quickly turn him into a “lame duck” President. And the former banker’s plans to change France’s labour laws to make it easier to ‘hire and fire’ could see him embroiled in industrial disputes that have frustrated several of his predecessors.

In turn, this is likely to increase the temptation for Mr Macron to act tough on the international stage where his authority as President would be greater. This poses risks for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, as Mr Macron – a self-styled europhile - is likely to back a hard stance against access to the Single Market without the UK also accepting the ‘Four Freedoms’ including freedom of movement.

Professor Shields said:

“The second round of the Presidential election this Sunday is about two worldviews - between Emmanuel Macron's open, liberal, progressive, pro-EU outlook and Marine Le Pen’s closed, protectionist, fearful one. All the indications are that Macron will triumph, mainly because Le Pen still doesn’t appeal widely beyond her core FN vote, despite her detoxification strategy of recent years.

“But the honeymoon is likely to be very short lived for Macron. He may well look back on the Presidential election as the easy bit. He’ll quickly face his first real test in the form of elections to the National Assembly in June, where his new En Marche! movement, fielding mostly novice candidates, needs to win 289 of the 577 seats to form a majority. Already, the electoral machines of the established parties will be focusing on how to thwart him.

“Without a parliamentary majority, he could quickly become a ‘lame duck’ President.

“And while Macron has been presented as a ‘left wing’ candidate, his proposed economic policies are decidedly centre-right. In some ways he is ‘Fillon-lite’ – he says he wants to deregulate and liberalise the economy to break out of France’s cycle of stagnation and high unemployment. But what this means in practice – making it easier to ‘hire and fire’ – is bound to lead to conflict with the trade unions who aren’t afraid to use mass industrial action to defend their members’ rights.

“In the past, domestic turmoil has led French presidents to focus more on the international stage. Here, we may see President Macron sticking inflexibly to his manifesto pledge to protect the integrity of the European Single Market in the face of Brexit.

“In that sense, the forthcoming negotiations between the UK government and European leaders may be a timely gift for Macron, because he can play to the gallery at home as the ‘Gaullist’ leader who doesn't bow down to les anglo-saxons.”


Notes to editors

1.    Expert interviewee

Professor Jim Shields is best known for his expertise in French politics and in the French and European far right. He has published on political institutions, elections, parties, political leaders, and social and economic issues driving political competition in France. His publications include international prize-winning work and the landmark book The Extreme Right in France: From Pétain to Le Pen (Routledge 2007).

Jim is a regular media commentator with close to 500 appearances in British, French, American, South American, Canadian, Australian, East European, Chinese and other international broadcast and print media. He is a familiar voice commenting on French elections and other big political stories.

He is available for media interviews on request. Please contact James Tout (details below) to arrange.

2.    About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For more than 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry.

For more information, call James Tout on 07989 610276 or email

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