In Depth

Emmanuel Macron's first day: Challenges ahead for 'young pretender'

French President's plans to transform the country could flounder if he doesn't find political allies

"I know the French people are expecting a lot from me," Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, in his first formal address as France's 25th president. It could have been the understatement of the year.

After rocketing from political obscurity to the Elysee Palace, the 39-year-old politician, who today heads to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been portrayed as everything from the "accidental president" to the "saviour of the Republic" and "the EU's antidote to nationalism and populism", says Sky News Europe correspondent Mark Stone.

First, however, he must choose a prime minister and given his lack of experience in elected office, allying himself with a veteran political heavyweight "would seem to be vital", says the journalist, although "that would probably mean choosing a character from one of the two establishment parties he's been so keen to distance himself from".

One of the "most astonishing features" of Macron's meteoric rise to the presidency is that he "does not have any obvious political allies at all," says the Daily Telegraph.

"For a young pretender who wants to reform France into a business-friendly, fiscally responsible and institutionally sound EU giant, he urgently needs some."

Author Serge Joncour joked about the lack of an obvious candidate this morning, tweeting: "In France, everyone is hanging onto their phone… Secretly wondering 'will I be the one Emmanuel calls?'"

Macron's next major challenge are June's legislative elections, when the French vote for representatives in the National Assembly.

Several commentators have predicted that his En Marche! party, contesting the elections under the name La Republique En Marche! (REM), will perform disappointingly against the established parties.

"Macron will face a host of difficulties trying to gain a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections with such a newly created party. Without that he'll have a hard time passing the laws he wants," writes The Local.

Without an absolute majority, Macron "risks being reduced to a mere figurehead", says The Guardian.

The practical challenge for the fledgeling party has been fulfilling Macron's promise to field a candidate in every constituency, with local branches sorting through almost 20,000 applications and conducting hundreds of interviews to fill the lists by this Wednesday's deadline.

Some 428 candidates have already been named and true to Macron's pledge to infuse French politics with fresh blood, more than half are newcomers to politics, including a "former female bullfighter, a gifted mathematician and a high-profile anti-corruption magistrate", says The Guardian. En Marche! has just two days to find another 148 candidates.

In terms of policies, Macron's "revolution" includes simplifying France's complicated labour code and cutting corporate tax from 33 per cent to 25 per cent.

However, this will set him on a collision course with the unions, most of which "have grown increasingly radical as their membership has dwindled in recent decades", writes Alexis Vintray, editor of political journal Contrepoints, on the BBC.

"Ambitious and bold, [Macron] may be able to stand up to strikers and protesters with more determination than previous presidents," he adds.

On the other hand, he does not have a strong track record with meaningful reform, continues the journalist, concluding: "Many of Mr Macron's proposals could help France overcome years of stagnation and self-doubt. But he needs to turn brave talk into urgent action."

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