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Macron symbolizes 'work in progress' for European politics: Goldman Sachs

Key Points
  • Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election's first round of voting does not mean that his potential leadership will be plain sailing, one Goldman Sachs economist told CNBC
  • The Macron/Le Pen runoff symbolizes a broader shift in European politics away from a traditional left/right definition
  • Le Pen's nationalist, Eurosceptic stance could form a credible long term mainstream opposition to governing parties in France
Owen Franken | Getty

With centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron topping the polls in Sunday's first round of voting, many are heralding the political upstart's ability to overturn mainstream politics. But one Goldman Sachs economist sought to calm the fever surrounding Macron, also placing him within a broader European political movement.

Macron's leading 23.9 percent of the vote represents "quite a fundamental realignment of politics in France, and maybe more broadly in Europe," Huw Pill, chief European economist at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC's Squawk Box Monday. But, he detailed that "perhaps we should interpret this as a very important step, but still only a step."

For Pill, France's runoff vote on May 7 reflects a broader trend in which: "The traditional left/right spectrum of political opinion maybe is dissolving, or at least is being paralleled with another spectrum going from the sort of Eurosceptic, more nationalistic side, towards a more internationalist, pro-European globalist side." This was also reflected in March's Dutch election, which saw incumbent pro-Europe Prime Minister Mark Rutte retain his position.

Pill also chimed in with others arguing that Macron must win big in June's legislative elections in order to most smoothly implement his reformist agenda. The En Marche! candidate "needs to build a new coalition," he explained.

Macron only a step in realignment of European politics: Goldman Sachs economist

Ultimately, though, Macron represents "very much a work in progress."

The French President can make legislative changes which bypass a vote in parliament using a constitutional snag known as Article 49.3. This could allow for Macron to fast track some of his proposed reforms.

Sunday's vote was the first time since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958 that France's two main parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, were booted out of the second round of voting. Pill said that far right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen was "playing a big role in this reorientation of French politics" and the "redefinition" of policy in France more broadly.

While polls place Le Pen nearly 30 points behind Macron ahead of May's runoff vote, she won the support of over 7.6 million French voters Sunday. Pill suggested that the Le Pen's far right ideology is likely to stick around in mainstream French politics, saying that her Eurosceptic, nationalist and protectionist agenda could become the "natural opposition" to Macron's stance over the medium term.

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