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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

France’s Macron vows new start at second term inauguration

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday vowed a new start to face immense challenges in foreign and domestic policy, as he was inaugurated for a second term after his election victory over the far right.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) signs the protocol next to its great chancellor General Benoit Puga (L) at the Elysee presidential palace
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) signs the protocol next to its great chancellor General Benoit Puga (L) at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP

In a ceremony at the Elysee Palace, Macron was confirmed by Constitutional Council chief Laurent Fabius as the winner of April’s presidential election and then signed the formal re-investiture document.

Attended by 450 people, including his wife Brigitte and his only surviving predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, the ceremony (which can be watched below) was relatively modest but marked the first time a French leader is serving a second term in 20 years.

Macron faces a daunting agenda of implementing the reforms he vowed when he came to power as France’s youngest-ever president in 2017, as well as dealing with the Russian assault against Ukraine.

“Rarely has our world and our country been confronted with such a combination of challenges,” he said, referring to the Russian invasion, the pandemic and the ecological emergency.

He vowed to be a “new president” for a “new mandate” and create a “stronger France”.

“Every day of the mandate that lies ahead I will have just one compass point. And that is to serve.”

‘Worn-out rites’
He also suggested a more inclusive and understanding style of ruling after his first term saw critics complain the former investment banker had abrasive and arrogant methods.

He vowed a “new method” to govern, far from the “worn-out rites and choreography” of the past.

In a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, 21 cannon shots were fired from the Invalides military memorial complex to celebrate the inauguration.

With no drive down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees or long red carpet, the ceremony resembled the re-inaugurations of Francois Mitterrand in 1988 and Jacques Chirac in 2002, the last French president to win a second term.

Despite the ceremony, Macron’s second term will only start officially when the first one expires at midnight on May 13.

He is set to keep playing a leading role in efforts to stop Russia’s war against Ukraine, while he carries an immense burden of expectation as a leader on the European stage with Germany still finding its footing in the post-Angela Merkel era.

Macron vowed to “act to avoid any escalation following the Russian aggression in Ukraine, to help democracy and courage to prevail, to build a new European peace and a new autonomy on our continent.”

On the domestic front, Macron must deal with the crisis over the rising cost of living and also brace for possible protests when he finally tackles his cherished pension reform, raising France’s retirement age.

Constitutional Council president Laurent Fabius (C) proclaims the official results of the 2022 presidential election in France at the Elysee presidential palace

Constitutional Council president Laurent Fabius (C) proclaims the official results of the 2022 presidential election in France at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP

He reaffirmed a vow for full employment in France and vowed to fight against inequality by reforming the health and school systems as well as against “daily insecurities and terrorism that is still there”.

Attending the ceremony were the parents of teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded by an Islamist extremist in 2020. His mother was moved to tears when the president embraced them.

 ‘Having difficulty’

Macron won the second round of presidential polls on April 24 with a score of 58.55 percent against far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

The ceremony comes at a time of political flux in the wake of Macron’s election victory, as France gears up for legislative polls that swiftly follow in June.

READ ALSO: Why France’s parliamentary elections are important

Macron is expected to name a new premier in place of incumbent Jean Castex to lead a revamped government into the elections, but not until his second term officially kicks off.

He has mooted naming a female politician with a focus on social responsibility — although reports have indicated that overtures to leftist figures, such as former official Veronique Bedague and Socialist parliamentary
group chief Valerie Rabault, have been rebuffed.

 “Here they are obviously having difficulty finding the right person,” French political historian Jean Garrigues told AFP.

President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops in the gardens of the Elysee palace

President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops in the gardens of the Elysee presidential palace after his investiture ceremony. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP

Meanwhile, the Socialist Party along with the Greens and Communists, is forming an unprecedented alliance for the parliamentary elections with the hard left France Unbowed (LFI) party of Jean-Luc Melenchon.

He was by far the best performing left-wing candidate in the first round of presidential elections and is spearheading efforts to mount a convincing challenge to Macron.

Pro-Macron factions have regrouped under the banner of Ensemble (Together) while his own Republic on the Move party, which has struggled to create a grass-roots base, is renaming itself Renaissance.

Garrigues said the problems of the ruling party were “linked by nature to his (Macron’s) political positioning which is both on the right and the left”.

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POLITICS

‘Build together’: The French government’s to do list for the next five years

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne outlined on Wednesday the government’s plans for the next five years in her first speech to the National Assembly since June’s legislative elections.

'Build together': The French government's to do list for the next five years

After congratulating newly elected deputies, Borne called on opposition parties to work with the governing party to reform, the French having chosen during the last legislative elections not to give them an absolute majority. 

“The French are asking us to take our responsibilities. We will do it. Together we will respond to the challenge of abstention … the demand for action … we will meet the requirement of responsibility,” she said.

“They urge us to do things differently, a sustained dialogue, the active search for compromise. The context obliges us, the war in Ukraine reminds us how fragile peace is”, she continued, also referring to “the ecological emergency which is becoming more present every second”. 

She added: “The French are asking us to talk more, to talk better, to build together.”

Among the challenges facing the government, Borne spoke of “environmental responsibility” and “improving the public accounts”. 

Here are the key points of her speech:

Cost of living

A bill to help French people with the cost of living and improve purchasing power will be the first major piece of government legislation put to the Assembly, on July 18th.

Borne, heckled by a febrile parliament, singled out the abolition of the TV licence, saying it would “save €138 per year for the French. Taxation will be one of our areas of debate, but it can be a subject of compromise.”

Pensions

On pensions, Borne said: “Our social model is a paradox: one of the most generous and one of those where we work the shortest. For the prosperity of our country and the sustainability of our pay-as-you-go system (…) we will have to gradually work a little longer”.

She promise to consult with social partners on pension reform.

Energy

Elisabeth Borne confirms the government’s intention to hold “100 percent of the capital of EDF” – effectively announcing the re-nationalisation of the energy supplier. “We must ensure our sovereignty in the face of the consequences of the war in Ukraine,” she said.

The State already owns about 80 percent of the business.

“This evolution will permit EDF to reinforce its capacities to carry out in the shortest possible time its ambitious and indispensable projects for our future energy” supplies, she added.

Shares in EDF jumped more than five percent higher, having traded down five percent before the prime minister’s speech.

Environment

“As of September, we will launch a vast consultation with a view to an energy-climate orientation law,” Borne said.

The “ecological emergency” is one of the government’s biggest upcoming challenges, she said.

“We will undertake radical transformations in our way of producing, housing, moving, consuming.”

“We will be the first major ecological nation to get out of fossil fuels,” the Prime Minister said, indicating that the government was putting nuclear energy at the heart of its green policy. “It is the guarantee of our energy sovereignty, the preservation of our purchasing power.”

She added that it would also create jobs.

Employment

Borne welcomed France’s improving employment figures, highlighting the success of apprenticeships, training for job seekers and the Un jeune, une Solution scheme. “Our country can get out of the vicious circle of mass unemployment,” she said.

Borne insisted that “full employment and good employment” is “not an illusion, not an unattainable goal” – but is “within our reach”.

Combatting ‘Séparatisme’

The prime minister also prioritised security in her speech, promising that “Separatism and Islamist extremism will be fought.”

As a result, Borne plans to present a bill for the creation of 200 additional gendarmerie brigades throughout the country. She also called for faster court decisions and for victims to be listened to. 

Education

Borne promised to improve teacher salaries, as she pledged “priority action” for schools and young people, and also said the government would continue developing the universal service scheme introduced by Emmanuel Macron during his first term in office.

“During our discussions, I saw another common desire emerge: to build the Republic of equal opportunities”, continues Elisabeth Borne. She assures that President Macron wants to “break the inequalities of destiny to allow everyone to choose their future, to trace the paths of emancipation”.

National debt

Borne set out an objective of reducing France’s national debt by 2026, and bringing the deficit below 3% from 2027.

Housing 

Borne said the question of housing is a major concern for French people and announced that her government has decided to put a ceiling on rent increases, and will work to build new housing.

Inequality 

The prime minister also announced plans to reduce inequality by offering single-parent households with childcare assistance for children up to age 12. Borne also pledged to simplify the student grant system, extend the culture pass from 6ème (age 11-12), and provide 30 minutes of sport for primary school students.

The PM also discussed potential reforms to disability benefits, which are currently partially dependent on spousal earnings.

At the end of a speech that lasted 90 minutes, Borne said that she wanted “to write a new page in the political history” of France. “I pledge never to break the thread of dialogue, to build ambitious compromises. The French have called for responsibility, and we will be there. We all have a part to play, we have everything to succeed. Building together, we will succeed.”

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