Emmanuel Macron Inaugurated for a 2nd Term as France President

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PARIS — Beneath the chandeliers of the Elysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Saturday for a second five-year term as president of France, vowing to lead more inclusively and to “act first to avoid any escalation following the Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

In a sober speech lasting less than ten minutes, remarkably short for a leader given to prolixity in his first term, Mr. Macron seemed determined to project a new humility and a break from a sometimes abrasive style. “Rarely has our world and our country confronted such a combination of challenges,” he said.

Mr. Macron, 44, held off the far-right nationalist leader Marine Le Pen to win re-election two weeks ago with 58.55 percent of the vote. It was a more decisive victory than polls had suggested but it also left no doubt of the anger and social fracture he will now confront.

Where other countries had ceded to “nationalist temptation and nostalgia for the past,” and to ideologies “we thought left behind 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 attempting to address that instability, provoked above all by Russia’s war in Ukraine. His overtures have borne little fruit. Still, Mr. Macron made clear that he would fight so that “democracy and courage prevail” in the struggle for a “a new European peace and a new autonomy on our continent.”

The president is an ardent proponent of greater “strategic autonomy,” sovereignty and independence for Europe, which he sees as a precondition for relevancy 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 faith in negotiating with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia than President Biden has.

The reelection of Emmanuel Macron on April 24 marked the end of a presidential campaign that pitted his promise for stability against extremist views.

Mr. Macron gave his trademark wink to his wife Brigitte, 69, as he arrived in the reception hall of the presidential palace, where about 500 people, including former Presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, were gathered.

Laurent Fabius, the president of the Constitutional Council, formally announced the results of the election. A general presented Mr. Macron with the elaborate necklace of Grandmaster of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction.

Guests came from all walks of life, ranging from the military to the theater. But in a sign of the distance France has to travel in its quest for greater political diversity, the attendees included a lot of white men in dark blue suits and ties, the near universal uniform of the products of the country’s elite schools.

The president then went out to the gardens, where he listened to a 21-gun salute fired from the Invalides on the other side of the Seine. No drive down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées followed, in line with the ceremony for 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 World War II in Europe, which in contrast to Mr. Putin’s May 9 “Victory Day” is dedicated to the concept of peace through unity on the Continent.

Addressing the European Parliament, Mr. Macron will set out plans for the 27-nation European Union to become an effective, credible and cohesive power. He will then travel to Berlin that evening to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in a sign of the paramount importance of Franco-German relations.

Sometimes referred to as the “president of the rich” because of the free-market reforms that initiated his presidency (and despite the state’s “whatever-it-takes” support for furloughed workers during the pandemic), Mr. Macron promised a “new method” of governing, symbolized by renaming his centrist party “Renaissance.”

Dismissing the idea that his election was a prolongation of his first term, Mr. Macron said “a new people, different from five years ago, has entrusted a new president with a new mandate.”

He vowed to govern in conjunction with labor unions and all representatives of the cultural, economic, social and political worlds. This would stand in contrast to the top-down presidential style he favored in his first term that often seemed to turn Parliament into a sideshow. The institutions of the Fifth Republic, as favored by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, tilt heavily toward presidential authority.

Ms. Le Pen’s strong showing revealed a country angry over falling purchasing power, rising inflation, high gasoline prices, and a sense, in blighted urban projects and ill-served rural areas, of abandonment. Mr. Macron was slow to wake up to this reality and now appears determined to make amends. He has promised several measures, including indexing pensions to inflation beginning this summer, to demonstrate his commitment.

However, Mr. Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 65 from 62, albeit in gradual stages, appears almost certain to provoke social unrest in a country where the left is proposing that people be allowed to retire at 60.

“Let us act to make our country a great ecological power through a radical transformation of our means of production, of our way of traveling, of our lives,” Mr. Macron declared. During his first term, his approach to leading France toward a post-carbon economy was often hesitant, infuriating the left.

This month, left-wing forces struck a deal to unite for next month’s parliamentary election under the leadership of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard-left politician who came just short of beating out Ms. Le Pen for a spot in the presidential election runoff. Mr. Mélenchon has made no secret of his ambition to become prime minister, and Mr. Macron no secret of his doubts about this prospect.

The bloc — including Mr. Mélenchon’s France Unbowed Party, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Greens — represents an unusual feat for France’s chronically fractured left and a new challenge to Mr. Macron. He will be weakened if he cannot renew his current clear majority in Parliament.

The creation of the new Renaissance Party and an agreement announced on Friday with small centrist parties constituted Mr. Macron’s initial answer 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 is said to favor the appointment of a woman to lead the government into the legislative elections.

He will not make the decision until after his second term formally begins next Saturday.

Constant Méheut and Adèle Cordonnier contributed reporting from Paris.