Published June 22, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron’s loss of a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s legislative elections shocked most observers of the country’s politics. It shouldn’t have.
The forces of populism from both the left and the right have been gaining steam throughout his tenure. Ignoring those forces, as Macron has largely done in his first term, would be a recipe for disaster. The only way forward, for him and for France, is to embrace what he has long opposed.
It’s been clear for years that the French are souring on Macron’s liberal centrism. His approval ratings languished under 50 percent for more than four years. He won less than 28 percent of the vote in the first round of this year’s presidential election, and 54 percent voted for a populist of the left or right. He won the second round only because the left-wing populist opposition despised his right-wing opponent, Marine Le Pen, more than they loathed Macron, so they either abstained or grudgingly backed him.
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Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.
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