France’s Macron Wins Re-Election, Averting Nationalist Shake-Up

French President Emmanuel Macron won re-election Sunday, defeating nationalist challenger Marine Le Pen with an estimated 58 percent of votes.

The incumbent only received 28 percent of votes in the election’s first round of voting two weeks ago. But the country came out in force in Sunday’s run-off to block a Le Pen victory.

The result, which also reflects Macron’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, lifts the possibility of a broad-reaching shakeup to France’s policies on immigration, labor and European relations that would have had deep consequences for the country’s fashion and luxury companies.

Most brands and designers avoided publicly commenting on the race, though a Le Pen victory would have plunged the industry’s international workforce into uncertainty as well as putting the country’s place in the EU in question.

While Le Pen’s party had dropped its pledge to exit the bloc, its pledges to force companies and state agencies to give French nationals preference over immigrants—including legal residents and citizens of other EU member states—for jobs, housing and benefits were directly opposed to European statutes ensuring free movement of goods, people and services.

Her proposed measures seen as stigmatizing immigrants, including a ban on Muslim women wearing hair coverings in public, also risked damaging “brand France” in the eyes of young consumers who favor buying products they feel reflect their stated values, like inclusivity.

Macron came to power five years ago on a promise to engineer a more dynamic society that would attract international investment and spur economic growth. His efforts to cut red tape and foster a more entrepreneurial business culture have found favor among the start-up set, while unprecedented levels of support to businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis helped to avoid mass layoffs.

Macron failed, however, to reverse growing inequality and deepening social divisions, as evidenced by 2018′s Yellow Vest protests.

While the President enjoys a broadly positive international image as a young dynamic reformer, in France he has struggled to shake off a reputation for elitism and overly pro-business stances at a time when many workers feel more precarious than ever. The candidate is also seen by many voters as insufficiently ambitious regarding climate change and the environment.

Legislative elections in June will determine if Macron’s party can maintain its majority, or if the President will be required to share power with opponents. The French electorate has historically granted sweeping legislative majorities to the winning party during presidential election years, but a crushing defeat in last year’s local elections has cast doubt on the ability of Macron’s La République En Marche party to mobilize public support.

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