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VIVE LE CENTRE!

Establishment Europe shouldn’t feel too relieved about right-winger Marine Le Pen’s defeat in France

IT WAS THE day the world didn’t end, the day that the tide of populism that gave the world Brexit and Donald Trump turned, the moment when French voters chose pragmatism over protest. That, at least, was the judgment of Europe’s establishment at the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 French presidential election.

It’s not hard to see why the defeat of the Euroskeptic, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen was so vital to the West’s future. A victory for Le Pen’s far-right National Front party would likely have heralded the disintegration of the European Union and the end of the continent’s grand experiment with open borders. And it would have caused a deep crisis in a world order based on free trade, mass migration and globalization— precisely the forces that Le Pen’s insurgent campaign blamed for France’s ills.

Macron—a former economy minister and relative political unknown before he launched his surprise centrist-insurgent bid for the presidency last November —stormed into the Élysée Palace by a decisive 66 percent. And yet, despite the palpable relief at the result in Brussels and in government offices across Europe, Macron’s margin was in fact uncomfortably small. In 2002, Le Pen’s Holocaust-denying father, Jean-Marie, founder of the National Front, polled under 18 percent to establishment candidate Jacques Chirac’s 82.2 percent. A decade and a half later, the nationalist vote in France has almost doubled to 33.9 percent. The danger remains that Le Pen’s anti-globalist, nativist ideology is still only one economic crisis away from power.

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MACRON STRONGER THAN LE PEN, BUT FRANCE’S WORRIES FAR FROM OVE It was the day the world didn’t end, the day that the tide of populism that gave the world Brexit and Donald Trump turned, the moment when French voters chose pragmatism over protest. That, at least, was the judgment of Europe’s establishment at the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7th French presidential election. It’s not hard to see why the defeat of the Euroskeptic, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen was so vital to the West’s future. A victory for Le Pen’s far-right National Front party would likely have heralded the disintegration of the European Union and the end of the continent’s grand experiment with open borders. However, with Macron's victory, establishment Europe shouldn’t feel too relieved about right-winger Marine Le Pen’s defeat in France.
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