The French election has been called, and National Front leader Marine Le Pen has conceded defeat to Emmanuel Macron, who ran representing the socially liberal “centrist” En Marche! Party that he founded last year.
After a populist sweep in the form of Brexit, and then in Donald Trump’s triumph, many were expecting Le Pen to defy the odds and continue the streak. Trump himself hadn’t voiced an opinion on the French election (unlike Barack Obama – who endorsed Macron), but merely made note of it last month.
Very interesting election currently taking place in France.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017
Despite how the election was framed, as right-wing populist Le Pen against centrist-Macron, we have to remember this is in the context of the European political spectrum. Chart the participants in France’s 2017 election on the political compass, and you’ll notice that on economic issues, Macron is to the far-right of Le Pen.
Per the Political Compass, Macron is regularly reported as being economically ‘liberal’ and socially ‘left wing’. In reality, Macron is a classic libertarian in the US sense, with a socially liberal outlook and, crucially, an extreme right wing (ie neoliberal) economic agenda. This mix appeals to a significant section of younger voters who, being steadfastly pro-business, dislike most forms of state engagement in either the economy or society in general.
The main differences trumpeted between Le Pen and Macron were in their social views. Macron favors mass immigration and refugee resettlement, while Le Pen has made railing against the Islamization of Europe central to her campaign. Among the other populist issues that Le Pen favored and Macron opposed were leaving the European Union, and protectionism over free trade.
Of course, it must be noted that Macron was a member of the socialist party until 2009, and received a large socialist backing in the French election. One can only speculate as to how genuine his “free market” flip is.
One thing is for certain — you won’t hear the French press blaming Le Pen’s defeat on sexism.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]