It’s a little too easy for liberals and globalists to breathe a sigh of relief at the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France. His win averts a short-term crisis over the terms of France’s participation in the European Union, but as both the populists and their antagonists have discovered, victory isn’t everything. You also have to govern.
It hardly seems fair, but, to accomplish anything, Macron will immediately have to win a third electoral victory after succeeding in two rounds of presidential elections. The early June vote for legislative seats will pose a serious challenge for his sparkling new party, En Marche!, which announced a slate of candidates, many of them newcomers to politics, this week. And while Macron needs to find a majority, or a workable coalition, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has a much lower bar for success. It is projected to win a only handful of seats, but with just two now, any gains will be spun as acceleration of the far right’s political movement, positioning the party to run again in the next presidential election.
Meanwhile, Macron’s bold ideas for deepening European integration must overcome a skeptical Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel is up for re-election in September, and her government has ranged from noncommittal to actively opposed to parts of Macron’s economic agenda. Even Germany’s defense minister took the time to snipe at Macronomics, saying in the wake of the French vote, “We can’t redistribute wealth in Europe before we create it,” according to the Economist. Macron faces a rising economic tide—Europe is, for once, doing fairly well—but the handful of electoral victories by centrists doesn’t change the political reality that most reform in Europe only happens in the wake of crisis.