“He’s young, he’s handsome, he’s intelligent,” exulted a French matron in the huge crowd along the Champs-Elysees as they watched the JFK-like Emmanuel Macron stride among them on Monday, May15. Macron had the day before drubbed his populist, far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, 66% to 33% in the presidential vote.
As the French do it in an unparalleled way, earning the bon mot that France is a monarchy disguised as a republic, the transition of power went off with great pomp and precision. It was accompanied by handshakes and cheek-pats between the outgoing Socialist president, a slightly fattened Francois Hollande, and his former economics minister, now his successor.
In a gesture of support for the military, Macron took the unprecedented step of leading the parade down the Champs Elysees in a military rather than a civilian vehicle and of visiting three wounded French soldiers in this first day of his tenure. He has named as his prime minister Edouard Philippe, 46, a tall, center-right politician who likes to box in his spare time.
Though hardly in the dimensions of Charles de Gaulle, the new French President resembles his predecessor of the far past in claiming to represent not a political party but a movement (“La Republique en Marche!”), embracing both the left and the right.
Without a political party, the 39-year-old Macron, the youngest French president ever, faces a huge challenge in the upcoming parliamentary elections in June. Lacking a political base, he will have to depend on the momentum effect of a “French spring.” Judging from the enthusiasm of the mass turnout last Monday, he may well snap he French out of their legendary morosity.