PARIS – Beneath the chandeliers of the Elysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Saturday for a second five-year term as president of France, pledging to lead more inclusively and “acting first to deal with any escalation following Russian aggression in Ukraine.” to prevent.”
In a sober speech lasting less than ten minutes, remarkably short for a leader attached to multiplicity in his first term in office, Mr Macron seemed determined to project a new humility and a break with a sometimes abrasive style. “Rarely has our world and our country been faced with such a combination of challenges,” he said.
Macron, 44, stopped far-right nationalist leader Marine Le Pen two weeks ago from winning re-election with 58.55 percent of the vote. It was a more decisive win than polls had suggested, but it also left no doubt about the anger and social rupture he will now face.
Where other countries had succumbed to ‘nationalist temptation and nostalgia for the past’, and to ideologies ‘that we thought we had left behind in the last century’, France had opted for ‘a republican and European project, a project of independence in a destabilized world’. said Mr Macron.
He has spent a lot of time in recent months addressing that instability, which was mainly caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. His overtures bore little fruit. Still, Macron made it clear that he would fight so that “democracy and courage prevail” in the struggle for a “new European peace and a new autonomy on our continent.”
The president is a staunch supporter of greater ‘strategic autonomy’, sovereignty and independence for Europe, which he sees as a precondition for relevance in the 21st century. This quest has created some friction with the United States, largely overcome during the war in Ukraine, even though Mr Macron appears to be more confident in negotiations with Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin than President Biden.
Understand the French Presidential Election
The re-election of Emmanuel Macron on April 24 marked the end of a presidential campaign that pitted his pledge for stability against extremist views.
Macron gave his trademark nod to his wife Brigitte, 69, as he arrived in the lobby of the presidential palace, where about 500 people, including former presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, had gathered.
Laurent Fabius, the president of the Constitutional Council, formally announced the results of the elections. A general presented Mr Macron with the elaborate necklace of Grand Master of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration.
Guests came from all walks of life, from the military to the theater. But as a sign of the distance France must travel in its quest for greater political diversity, those in attendance were many white men in dark blue suits and ties, the near-universal uniform of the products of the country’s elite schools.
The president then went to the gardens, where he listened to a 21-gun salute fired from the Invalides on the other side of the Seine. There was no ride down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, in line with the ceremony for the last re-elected president, Jacques Chirac, two decades ago.
Mr Macron will travel to Strasbourg on Monday to celebrate “Europe Day”, commemorating the end of World War II in Europe, which, unlike Putin’s “Victory Day” on May 9, is dedicated to the concept of peace through unity on the Continent.
In a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Macron will outline plans for the 27-nation European Union to become an effective, credible and cohesive power. He will then travel to Berlin that evening to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as a sign of the utmost importance of Franco-German relations.
Sometimes referred to as the “president of the rich” because of the free-market reforms his presidency began (and despite the state’s “whatever it takes” support for laid-off workers during the pandemic), Mr Macron promised a “new way of governing, symbolized by renaming his centrist party ‘Renaissance’.
Macron rejected the idea that his election was an extension of his first term in office, saying “a new people, unlike five years ago, has entrusted a new president with a new mandate.”
He promised to rule in cooperation with trade unions and all representatives of the cultural, economic, social and political world. This would contrast with the top-down presidential style he preferred in his first term in office, which often made Parliament seem like an afterthought. The institutions of the Fifth Republic, favored by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, lean strongly towards presidential authority.
Ms. Le Pen’s strong performance revealed a country angry at declining purchasing power, rising inflation, high gasoline prices and a sense, in devastated urban projects and poorly served rural areas, of desolation. Mr Macron slowly woke up to this reality and now seems determined to make amends. He has promised several measures, including indexing pensions to inflation from this summer, to show his commitment.
However, Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 from 62 to 65, albeit in gradual stages, seems almost certain to spark social unrest in a country where the left proposes that people should be allowed to retire at 60.
“Let’s act to make our country a great ecological power through a radical transformation of our means of production, of our way of travel, of our lives,” Macron said. During his first term in office, his approach to leading France towards a post-carbon economy was often hesitant, enraging the left.
This month, left-wing forces struck a deal to unite for next month’s parliamentary elections led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left politician who narrowly missed out on Ms Le Pen for a spot in the second round of the presidential election. Mr Mélenchon has made no secret of his ambition to become Prime Minister, and Mr Macron has made no secret of his doubts about this prospect.
The bloc – which includes Mélenchon’s French unbowed party, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Greens – is an unusual achievement for France’s chronically fractured left and a new challenge for Macron. He will be weakened if he cannot renew his current clear majority in Parliament.
The creation of the new Renaissance party and an agreement with small centrist parties announced Friday were Mr Macron’s first response to this changed political reality.
Macron’s first major political decision will likely be the choice of a new prime minister to replace Jean Castex, the incumbent. The president is said to be in favor of appointing a woman to lead the government into the parliamentary elections.
He will not make the decision until his second term formally begins next Saturday.
Constant Meheut and Adele Cordonnier contributed reporting from Paris.