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Emmanuel Macron’s immediate challenge

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-05-2017 Philippe Aghion

Emmanuel Macron may be sure of becoming the next President of France, but he is still a long way from being able to implement his plan to transform France from a statist, rigid, and sputtering economy into a Scandinavian-style powerhouse, in which populists return to the margins of political life.

What stands in his way is France’s National Assembly, which is to be elected in June. If a coalition of parties opposed to his En Marche! movement were to win and appoint a prime minister, Macron would face a period of what we French call cohabitation. Macron would find himself in virtually a titular role, with a hostile prime minister holding most executive powers.

To avoid this prospect, Macron’s En Marche ! will have to come, literally from nothing, to dominate the parliament. To make sure he gets a comfortable majority in parliament to implement his program, Macron will have to get MPs from other parties, from the centre-right and centre-left to join a coalition with En Marche!

Such a coalition would be centered around a limited number of key reforms: labour market reforms, tax reform, education reform, which all participants see as priorities to modernize the French economy. One thus talks about “une majorité de projet.”

François Bayrou from the centrist Mouvement démocrate is already supporting Macron. Others from the centre-right, such as Jean-Louis Borloo or from the centre-left are also waiting in the wings, as is Manuel Valls, the former socialist Prime Minister. And from the centre-right party Les Républicains, Christian Estrosi, president of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Benoist Apparu, and other personalities close to Alain Juppé, have expressed interest in joining Macron’s reform process after the parliamentary elections.

If Macron plays his cards well, shows resolve, but also listens and resists the temptation to behave like a new Napoleon, he will successfully replace the old left-right divide in French politics with a reformist/conservative split. In doing so to push his bold reform agenda, Macron will make history and become a beacon of hope for progressives everywhere. ©2017/Project Syndicate

Philippe Aghion is professor of economics at Harvard University, College de France, and the London School of Economics.

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