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The Economist Reveals Its Country Of The Year

In most years, that would be enough. But in 2017 France defied all expectations. Emmanuel Macron, a young ex-banker who had no backing from any of the traditional parties, won the presidency. Then La République En Marche, Mr Macron’s brand-new party full of political novices, crushed the old guard to win most of the seats in the National Assembly. This was not merely a stunning upset. It also gave hope to those who think that the old left-right divide is less important than the one between open and closed. Mr Macron campaigned for a France that is open to people, goods and ideas from abroad, and to social change at home. In six months he and his party have passed a series of sensible reforms, including an anti-corruption bill and a loosening of France’s rigid labour laws.

Critics mock Mr. Macron’s grandiosity (calling his presidency “Jupiterian” was a bit much). They carp that his reforms could have gone further, which is true. Perhaps they forget how, before he turned up, France looked unreformable—offering voters a choice between sclerosis and xenophobia. Mr Macron’s movement swept aside the ancien régime and trounced the ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen (who, had she won, would have wrecked the European Union). The struggle between the open and closed visions of society may well be the most important political contest in the world right now. France confronted the drawbridge-raisers head on and beat them. For that, it is our country of the year.

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