PARIS — Under the chandeliers of the Elysee Palace, Emmanuel Macron was sworn in on Saturday for a second five-year term as President of France, vowing to lead in a more inclusive manner and “to act first to avoid any escalation following the aggression Russian in Ukraine”.
In a sober speech of less than ten minutes, remarkably short for a leader prolix in his first term, Mr Macron seemed determined to project a new humility and a break with an sometimes abrasive style. “Rarely has our world and our country faced such a combination of challenges,” he said.
Mr Macron, 44, blocked far-right nationalist leader Marine Le Pen from being re-elected two weeks ago with 58.55% of the vote. It was a more decisive victory than the polls had suggested, but it left no doubt about the anger and social divide he will now face.
Where other countries had yielded to “nationalist temptation and nostalgia for the past” and to ideologies “which we thought were outdated in the last century”, France had chosen “a republican and European project, a project of independence in a destabilized world”. Mr. Macron said.
He has spent a lot of time in recent months trying to remedy this instability, caused above all by Russia’s war in Ukraine. His overtures bore little fruit. Yet Mr Macron made it clear that he would fight for “democracy and courage to prevail” in the fight for “a new European peace and a new autonomy on our continent”.
The president is a strong advocate for greater “strategic autonomy,” sovereignty and independence for Europe, which he sees as a prerequisite for relevance in the 21st century. This quest has brought some friction with the United States, largely overcome during the war in Ukraine, even if Mr. Macron seems to have more confidence in negotiating with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin than President Biden.
Understanding the French Presidential Election
Emmanuel Macron’s re-election on April 24 marked the end of a presidential campaign that pitted his promise of stability against extremist views.
Mr Macron gave a nod to his wife Brigitte, 69, as he arrived at the reception hall of the presidential palace, where around 500 people, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, were gathered.
Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council, formally announced the results of the election. A general presented Mr Macron with the elaborate necklace of Grand Master of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest honour.
Guests came from all walks of life, ranging from the military to the theater. But in a sign of the distance France must travel in its quest for greater political diversity, the attendees included many white men in dark blue suits and ties, the near-universal uniform of the country’s elite school products.
The president then went to the gardens, where he listened to a 21-gun salute fired from the Invalides across the Seine. No car raid on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées followed, in accordance with the ceremony of the last re-elected president, Jacques Chirac, two decades ago.
Mr Macron will travel to Strasbourg on Monday to celebrate ‘Europe Day’, commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe, which, unlike Mr Putin’s 9 May ‘Victory Day’, is dedicated to the concept of peace through unity on the Continent.
Addressing the European Parliament, Mr Macron will outline plans for the 27-nation European Union to become an effective, credible and cohesive power. He will then go to Berlin in the evening to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a sign of the primordial importance of Franco-German relations.
Sometimes referred to as the “president of the rich” because of the liberal reforms that initiated his presidency (and despite the state’s “no matter what” support for furloughed workers during the pandemic), Mr Macron has promised a “new method” of government, symbolized by renaming his centrist party “Renaissance”.
Rejecting the idea that his election was an extension of his first term, Mr Macron said that “a new people, different from five years ago, have given a new president a new mandate”.
He is committed to governing in collaboration with the unions and all the representatives of the cultural, economic, social and political worlds. This would contrast with the top-down presidential style he favored in his first term, which often seemed to turn Parliament into a sideshow. The institutions of the Fifth Republic, as favored by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, leaned heavily towards presidential authority.
Ms Le Pen’s strong performance revealed a country angry with declining purchasing power, rising inflation, high petrol prices and a sense of abandonment in rundown urban projects and areas underserved rural areas. Mr. Macron was slow to realize this reality and now seems determined to make amends. He promised several measures, including the indexation of pensions to inflation as of this summer, to demonstrate his commitment.
However, Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, albeit in gradual steps, looks almost certain to cause social unrest in a country where the left is proposing that people be allowed to take their retirement at age 60.
“Let us act to make our country a great ecological power by a radical transformation of our means of production, of our way of traveling, of our lives,” said Mr. Macron. During his first term, his approach to leading France towards a post-carbon economy was often hesitant, infuriating the left.
Left-wing forces this month struck a deal to unite for next month’s legislative elections under the leadership of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left politician who nearly beat Ms Le Pen for a place in the second round of the presidential election. . Mr. Mélenchon did not hide his ambition to become Prime Minister, and Mr. Macron did not hide his doubts about this prospect.
The bloc – comprising Mr Mélenchon’s Parti insoumis de la France, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Greens – represents an unusual feat for France’s chronically fractured left and a new challenge for Mr Macron. It will be weakened if it cannot renew its current clear majority in Parliament.
The creation of the new Renaissance Party and an agreement announced Friday with smaller centrist parties were Mr. Macron’s first response to this changed political reality.
Mr Macron’s first major political decision will likely be the choice of a new prime minister to replace Jean Castex, the incumbent. The president would be in favor of the appointment of a woman to lead the government in the legislative elections.
He will not make a decision until the official start of his second term next Saturday.
Constant Meheut and Adele Shoemaker contributed reporting from Paris.