Macron 5 challenges for France's new president

Emmanuel Macron, France's new president who formally takes power on Sunday, faces a daunting to-do list.

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Emmanuel Macron must unite a deeply divided country, tackle unemployment and team up with Germany to try to reform the EU play

Emmanuel Macron must unite a deeply divided country, tackle unemployment and team up with Germany to try to reform the EU

(AFP/File)
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Emmanuel Macron, France's new president who formally takes power on Sunday, faces a daunting to-do list.

The 39-year-old must unite a deeply divided country, tackle unemployment and team up with Germany to try to reform the EU -- but he first faces a battle to secure a governing majority in legislative elections due in June.

Unite France

Macron, a pro-European centrist and former banker, takes over a deeply divided country.

The election revealed two Frances: one urban, more affluent and open to reform; the other concentrated in the northern rustbelt and rural areas that backed Macron's far-right opponent Marine Le Pen or other anti-globalisation candidates.

Macron knows that many of those who backed him over Le Pen in the second round picked him as "the lesser of two evils" and do not support his liberal, pro-business agenda.

Failure to produce results on jobs could further alienate those who feel neglected by the political class, driving more voters to the extremes.

Secure a majority

Macron says his year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) movement and government will be open to progressives of all stripes.

He aims to seal his presidential win with an outright majority in the June 11-18 parliamentary election but his fledgling party faces a tough task to replicate his extraordinary rise.

Half of the 428 parliamentary candidates it has chosen so far have never held elected office.

Macron is convinced that the French people will hand him another victory.

But the right-wing Republicans, whose candidate Francois Fillon crashed out in the first round of the presidential election after allegations he had embezzled state funds, hope to strike back and force Macron into a coalition arrangement.

The radical left of firebrand leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is also aiming for a strong showing.

Reform the labour market

Like his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande, Macron will be judged above all on employment.

French joblessness stands at 10 percent, which compares with an average of 8 percent across the EU and just 3.9 percent in neighbouring Germany.

Macron vowed during campaigning to use executive orders to force through reforms of France's rigid labour laws, in order to encourage employers to hire.

But by bypassing parliament he risks being drawn into a showdown with the country's combative trade unions and triggering mass protests of the kind that undermined Hollande.

Manage terror threat

The killing of a policeman on the Champs-Elysees in Paris just three days before the first round of the presidential vote was a sobering reminder of the terror threat hanging over France.

More than 230 people have been killed in jihadist attacks in France since January 2015, many carried out in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Security experts have warned of the particular threat posed by hundreds of French IS fighters returning home from Syria and Iraq in the coming years.

With no previous experience in such matters, Macron has to move quickly to show he has a grip on the security challenges and his role as military commander-in-chief.

Drive EU reform

Macron sees a reinvigoration of the France-Germany alliance as crucial to relaunching the EU after the shocks of Brexit and the migrant crisis.

His first trip abroad will take him to Berlin on Monday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Macron also plans to visit other European capitals during his first months in charge, to set out his five-year roadmap for closer eurozone integration and tackling issues such as the environment and migration.

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