Macron: how much power can democracy take?
A comfortable start for Emmanuel Macron's party: La République en Marche and its partner MoDem have obtained 350 of the 577 seats in France's National Assembly. Commentators discuss the risks such a concentration of power entails and ask who can exercise a control function vis-à-vis the new French government.
France need not fear a "democratorship"
La Croix sees nothing to fear:
“It must be noted that the Senate has still not been overtaken by Macronism, and that the National Assembly will certainly be electrified by the presence of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. In short: France is not at risk of becoming a democratorship like Russia and Turkey, where one person has concentrated power while formally adhering to democratic rules. In our country, minority opinions have several ways of making themselves heard. There's nothing wrong with the fact that they face a firmly entrenched power structure. On the contrary, that can allow an effective separation between the phase of debate and the phase of making decisions.”
Macron's opposition is the people
Macron's true opposition won't be in the National Assembly, Sega points out:
“In parliament there will be no opposition strong enough to exert effective control over the government. The true opposition will be on the street, because the majority of non-voters don't feel represented by the members of the National Assembly. ... So Macron's huge election victory is at the same time a huge weakness. ... Parliament will hardly be able to act as a buffer between the president and the people. Every time the executive has to take a difficult decision tensions will lead to violent conflicts being played out on the street.”
Wanted: a strong opposition
The Berliner Zeitung wonders whether the opposition will be at all capable of fulfilling its mandate of controlling the government:
“Especially since the opposition parties are not only too weakened, but also profoundly divided. This gives non-parliamentary forces the chance to fill the void, transfer the debate to the streets and be a radical opposition. Sunday's historically low voter turnout also plays right into their hands. … As crazy as it may sound, the president who triumphed on Sunday will, in his own interests, opt to give the parliamentary opposition room for manoeuvre, he will have to seek dialogue. Macron is capable of this. He's already sent the first signals in the opposition's direction. … A president who helps his political opponents get back on their feet - the next premiere is about to begin on the stage of the Fifth French Republic.”
Biggest hurdle yet to come
Macron should take advantage of this propitious moment and act swiftly, Tages-Anzeiger recommends:
“The young president has so far displayed an amazing political instinct and done almost everything right since his election on May 7. However, the real challenge for him will be to push through the labour market reform against the radical social resistance that such a project inevitably triggers in France. The absolute parliamentary majority that La République en Marche won yesterday is an important prerequisite. Macron has also recognised that he must take advantage of the situation and act quickly. If he does fail as a result of strikes and mass demonstrations, this would be an early breaking of the spell.”
Weariness with politics a threat to democracy
The high number of abstentions is dangerous for democracy, Slate warns:
“In the first round of the parliamentary elections only 20 million voters representing 48.71 percent of the electorate went to the polls. This Sunday things looked much the same. This turnout, the lowest in the history of the Fifth Republic, shows once again that this system is in a deep crisis. Logically this should benefit President Macron, who may obtain 70 percent of the seats in the National Assembly although only 15.7 percent of the electorate voted for him. ... The problem is that there is no opposition. Even if our regime can in no way be compared with a dictatorship, it seems to have damaged the foundations of democracy.”
France's last chance?
Macron's clear victory is a unique opportunity for France to get its economy back on its feet, Rzeczpospolita believes:
“In contrast to what many economists hope, he's not preparing to streamline the bloated state. He believes that it will be enough to liberalise the job market and raise the standard of education. ... Certainly Macron will do all he can to avoid going down in history as the president who was succeeded by Marine Le Pen. He's too proud for that. To prevent that, France will have to be modernised from the bottom up. Since the country first lapsed into economic stagnation at the end of the 1970s there has been no better opportunity than now to put it back on its feet. This generation may not get another chance.”
Macron can rouse Europe from its slumber
Macron will make Europe stronger, La Repubblica hopes:
“After the Brexit, France will be the only nuclear power in the European Union and the only country with a permanent seat and veto powers in the UN Security Council. ... In the current situation, in which the Europeans find themselves squeezed between an unreliable Putinist Russia and an even more unreliable Trumpist America, the young Macron could give the German-French axis new strength - especially if he can involve Spain and Italy. Europe needs a new dynamic. In a tired and partially confused European Union in which Angela Merkel seems to be the only positive, balancing element, the new French president can help create such a dynamic. Europe cannot only be 'German'.”