Macron's Victory

Why French Voters Rejected Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France, April 17, 2017. Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old former economy minister who grew up as the son of two doctors in the provincial backwater of Amiens, will be the next president of France, having won with around 66 percent of the vote. Although he has never held elective office, he defeated the redoubtable Marine Le Pen, the heiress to a populist dynasty founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who defended torture in Algeria, called Nazi gas chambers a mere “detail” of history, and once punched a female Socialist politician in the face.

The Le Pens have adopted Joan of Arc as their hero. Joan, a child of the people who is considered by some the “mother of the French nation,” heard voices that told her to boot foreigners—the English—out of France. The Le Pens hearken to the same voices, although the identity of the foreigner has changed.

In this election, however, it is Macron who appears to have been listening to otherwise unheard voices. While still serving under outgoing President François Hollande, the fledgling economy minister hatched a plan to replace his boss. After he founded a movement called En Marche! (Onward!) in April 2016, advisers warned Hollande that the man whom the president had once described as his spiritual son was preparing to run against him. Yet despite long years as a political insider, Hollande dismissed such rumors.

The young prodigy’s remarkable rise began when he graduated near the top of his class from the highly selective National School of Administration, the nursery of the French elite. This gave him entry into the most prestigious of France’s administrative corps, the Inspectorate General of Finance. He thus began his career already near the top of the ladder. After a short detour into the private sector, where he spent a few years working as an investment banker, Macron returned to government as a senior member of Hollande’s staff. From there he was appointed economy minister, a post from which he resigned

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