23 July 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron’s approach of 'transcending the left and right' has proven instrumental in securing his party's triumph in the recent parliamentary election. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron’s approach of 'transcending the left and right' has proven instrumental in securing his party's triumph in the recent parliamentary election. Photo: Reuters

What Carrie Lam can learn from Emmanuel Macron

After having wowed the world by becoming France’s youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte, the 39-year-old newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron once again swept to a stunning victory in the recent French parliamentary election.

Macron and his fledgling political party, Republic On the Move (LREM) , took 308 seats in the French National Assembly, more than half of its total 577 seats. Along with its Modem allies, the LREM snapped up 350 seats, giving the coalition a 60 percent majority in the French legislature.

Being in control of both the Elysee and the National Assembly means Macron is given a free hand to carry out his policy agenda over the next five years.

Many analysts have attributed the landslide victory of the LREM to Macron’s charisma and leadership. However, apart from that, his political approach of “transcending the left and right” has also proven instrumental in securing his party’s triumph.

By adopting a centrist approach and ditching the conventional political wisdom of “left vs.right”, Macron and his LREM are able to appeal to a much broader demographic than other parties.

And French voters, fed up and disillusioned with the corrupt political establishment in Paris dominated by the traditional right-wing Republicans and the left-wing Socialist Party, found new hope in Macron’s party and its rookie candidates.

Desperate for change, the French people were eager to give the LREM and its candidates, many of whom barely have any experience in politics, an opportunity to take a shot at running their country and resolving the pressing issues that are facing them.

In contrast, the Socialist Party, which used to hold the majority of seats in the last National Assembly, suffered a terrible defeat, losing almost 90 percent of its seats, down from more than 300 to just 30. On the other hand, the right-wing Republicans just managed to keep their head above water by taking 136 seats as the largest opposition party.

In the meantime, the ultra-right Marine Le Pen’s dream of being elected to the National Assembly finally came true. In total, her National Front took eight seats in this election, the best ever results the party has seen.

The triumph of the LREM and its Modem allies is not only a shot in the arm for the liberal elites and moderate voters in France, but also comes as a huge relief for the European Union (EU), particularly Germany.

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it, Macron and his party’s victory has restored hope to Germany, France and the EU, and paved the path for closer partnership between Berlin and Paris in the days ahead on EU matters.

In fact, as the US under President Donald Trump is shying away from commitments on preserving collective security in Europe, and Britain is leaving, not to mention that Eurosceptic and ultra-nationalist populism is on the rise across Europe, the EU is undergoing tough times and appearing to be hanging by a thread.

As such, perhaps Merkel couldn’t be happier to learn that the pro-EU, highly popular and centrist Macron is now firmly in power as the French president, so that together they can guide the EU through the difficulties and challenges ahead.

The French parliamentary election results might sound irrelevant to Hong Kong people, but the refreshing political approach of “transcending left vs right” adopted by Macron as a means to unite his people and set the tone for his governance may provide quite a lot of insight for us into how to break the current political stalemate and mend fences in our highly polarized society.

Of course, it would be naive to think that we can just duplicate the French example and Macron’s approach and then apply them to Hong Kong.

Yet, as incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam has also pledged to facilitate reconciliation and restore harmony to society, perhaps it is worth her while to examine thoroughly Macron’s idea of transcending the conventional political wisdom of “left vs. right” and focusing more on solid issues rather than quarrelling over ideological differences to see if she can draw some inspiration from it.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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