Macron starts second term with increasing challenges

French President Emmanuel Macron. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

  • Saturday marks the first day of French President Emmanuel Macron back in office.
  • The 44-year-old is returning for his second term in office.
  • Macron’s Republic on the Move party has been renamed Renaissance ahead of parliamentary polls on June 12-19.

French President Emmanuel Macron will formally begin his second term in office on Saturday, keeping tensions over his new government ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections, which will shape his next five years in power.

The 44-year-old won a solid April 24 presidential election against far-right leader Marine Le Pe, but still needs a majority in parliament to push through his domestic reform agenda.

The identity of Macron’s new government is expected to set the tone for campaigns, with the president suggesting he only wants to name the second female prime minister in modern French history.

Speculation abounds in the French media, with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and current Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne being seen as possible candidates, but Macron has taken the time to name a replacement for outgoing Prime Minister Jean Castex .

“It’s been decided, but no one knows who it is,” a presidential adviser told AFP on condition of anonymity.

READ | ‘I owe them something’ – Macron vows to tackle ‘doubts and divisions’ after election win

An announcement is expected early next week.

Macron’s Republic on the Move party has been renamed Renaissance ahead of parliamentary polls on June 12-19, which will see several centrist and center-right parties compete under the collective pro-Macron banner ‘Together’.

France’s splintered left parties have also agreed on a partnership led by former Trotskyist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has set his sights on a parliamentary majority to thwart Macron’s plans.

Frederic Dabi, head of the Ifop polling group, told AFP this week:

Going from around 60 MPs (in the current parliament) to a majority is highly unlikely, but the dynamism the new union is creating could mean they are making great strides.

Le Pen’s National Rally and France’s ailing mainstream right-wing party, the Republicans, also hope to recover from their disappointment in the presidential election by securing significant representation in the 577-seat parliament.

‘Combination of challenges’

Macron won re-election with promises to continue the generally pro-business and pro-EU policies of his first term, with more tax cuts and social reforms, and a new emphasis on environmental protection for the next five years.

The biggest change is expected to take place in his way of governing.

The former investment banker has repeatedly promised “a new method” that will be less top-down — a move designed to tackle his reputation for elitism and quirkiness.

“For it to work, there must be results that are concrete and visible to people,” Bernard Sananes, head of polling group Elabe, told AFP. “If it’s just to show you’re listening to people, that’s great, but it won’t be enough.”

Others wonder if the more consultative style suits the temperament of a president known for centralizing decision-making and once theorizing that the French wanted a kingly figure at the center of national life.

ALSO READ | Macron says it could be decades before Ukraine joins EU – proposes new group including UK

His short-term domestic priority is expected to be to address a cost of living crisis that dominated the presidential campaign due to sharp increases in energy prices and other goods linked to product shortages and the war in Ukraine.

In foreign policy, where Macron will have a free hand as president regardless of the parliamentary outcome, he has pledged to work to deepen the 27-member European Union while managing the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine.

Macron has positioned himself as an important link to the Kremlin through his regular talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also allowing arms supplies to Ukraine and expressing his full support for the partially occupied country.

“Rarely has our world and our country faced such a combination of challenges,” Macron said when he was inaugurated for his second term on May 7.

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