Emmanuel Macron will serve a second term as president of France – the first person to do so since 2002 – according to opinion polls.
His victory over right-wing rival Marine Le Pen by a relatively comfortable margin of 58.5% to 41.5% will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief in the capitals of France’s most prominent allies – most notably in Brussels, home of the European Union and NATO.
Le Pen could have been built almost purposefully, as Western alliance leaders would be least eager to rule a country as important as France.
France is a member of NATO, the EU and the G7. It has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and is a nuclear power. But despite its deep anchoring in these pillars of the Western order, France has also historically favored an autonomous foreign policy, meaning it can act as a mediator between the US-led Western order and countries like Iran, China and Russia.
Le Pen’s previous ties to Russia, an unenthusiastic view of NATO and a hostile view of the EU meant that her victory would have set cages worldwide.
However, if the forecasts are correct, the magnitude of Macron’s victory tonight will mean the celebrations are cut short for many French allies. Far from Macron’s impressive win in 2017, where he comfortably beat Le Pen with 66% of the vote, that margin is now much narrower.��
Despite the fact that beating the far right for the second time is a big win for Macron, France’s allies will be very aware that according to the data, nearly 42% of French voters supported someone who is against so much of what they are for. .
Nowhere will this be felt more acutely than under the leadership of NATO and the EU.
For NATO, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the first real test of the alliance’s unity in years. While eyebrows have been raised at some of Macron’s decisions during the crisis, NATO has largely been on the same page.
Based on Le Pen’s past relationship with Putin and disdain for NATO, few thought this would pose a problem not only in NATO, but also in the UN Security Council.
When it comes to the EU, Macron has hardly been shy about his desire for Europe to become stronger and more united on security and foreign policy matters. His vision of European unity sometimes irritates many of his colleagues, who think he is trying to push through a French vision for Europe, although his commitment to the project cannot be questioned.
Le Pen, on the other hand, is more dangerous than someone who wants France to leave the EU: She could lead the group of Eurosceptics who want to take over the bloc from within.
A significant number of these people are already represented in the EU institutions. Right-wing extremist parties are represented in parliament in a number of countries. Where it gets messier is at the national level.
There are EU Member States, especially Hungary and Poland, which are led by people whose view of the EU is very close to Le Pen’s. This was underlined last year when she joined numerous other right-wing leaders, including national leaders, in an open letter against many of the progressive ideas proposed by Brussels in recent decades.
For the traditional West, Macron’s second term in office is a moment of great relief, but also a moment of warning. If the far right continues to make a profit, there could be a very different outcome in five years.