ast night, at 8pm local time, the media confirmed what polls had been telling us all day: Emmanuel Macron was heading to the Élysée Palace–and by a landslide. Thousands danced in the streets of Paris and beyond as the nationalist, protectionist platform of Front National candidate Marine Le Pen was vanquished.
But there will have been more than the odd celebratory jig in Silicon Valley too, as a President who is staunchly pro-trade and innovation prepares to helm the world’s sixth-largest economy. Macron may be a year shy of 40 but his previous employment, as Francois Hollande’s minister of economy, industry and digital affairs, has allowed him to see the importance of the tech industry in modernizing what has threatened to become a stagnant market.
In March Macron launched a charm offensive with industry leaders in and out of France, when he unveiled plans for a €10 billion innovation fund to support “the industry of the future.” That would likely be run by Bpifrance, the country’s investment bank, which has played a key role in promoting exciting tech ventures like Withings and Pixium Vision. Macron has repeatedly championed the fund. That will not change as President.
The EU, too, will be delighted at Sunday’s result. A Le Pen win, predicated on leaving Brussels, would have been catastrophic for a bloc that has already suffered the imminent loss of Britain. Macron himself has taken a tough stance on Westminster, telling Monocle magazine that it is “the British who will lose the most. You cannot enjoy rights in Europe if you are not a member – otherwise it will fall apart.” That may worry British-based tech heads. But a united Europe is better for Silicon Valley.
Macron pleases the tech crowd chiefly for his protection of two multipliers: open trade and skilled immigration. Le Pen singled them both out as neoliberal cons designed to cheat the French people. It is clear that many aspects of globalized capital have hurt working class members of societies in France and beyond. But her deep protectionism and nativist stance would have crippled French innovation.
Little surprise, therefore, that Macron received a pre-vote plug from the Consumer Technology Association, a powerful US tech industry group that has rallied behind free markets and deregulation (including the lauding of current FCC chief and net neutrality bete noir Ajit Pai).
Macron’s “passion for and success in promoting tech industry growth and the jobs our sector creates,” wrote CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro after the first poll on April 23. “He has vocally supported new business models and investment in innovation, and strongly advocated for a more flexible workforce and a future based on technology.”
It is of ironic amusement, therefore, that tech was employed in a last-minute offensive against Macron’s candidacy. Last week Wikileaks released a tranche of documents associated with the former banker, which analysts have called a mixture of truth and fiction. 40% of Twitter accounts that mentioned the hashtag #MacronGate were bots. An unlikely band of Russian, American and pro-Le Pen and nationalism activists were busy propagating the unsubstantiated rumor–which Le Pen parroted during a presidential debate–that Macron has a secret bank account in the Bahamas.
But thanks in part to a French law preventing media activity 24 hours before a national election, Macron prevailed–and should begin building bridges with the disaffected 33.9% of the electorate who preferred his rightwing adversary. He should also continue to lead France on a path of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Victor Huge once said that “forty is the old age of youth.” Macron will reach that milestone in December as the leader of his nation. How quickly his forty-first year feels like old age may have a lot to do with how much he embraces France’s most exciting industry. En avant.