France named The Economist’s country of the year

The Economist named France as its country of the year on Thursday, saying new President Emmanuel Macron had upset the odds to strike a victory for open societies and reform.

The London-based weekly news magazine said the battle between open and closed visions of society was the most important in the world in 2017 and Macron had defeated the “drawbridge-raisers”.

“In 2017, France defied all expectations,” The Economist said in an editorial in its December 23-January 5 edition.

The centrist Macron’s successful presidential election campaign, without the backing of a traditional party, followed by his start-up Republic on the Move (LREM) movement winning the most seats in the National Assembly, was a “stunning upset”, the magazine said.

“Mr Macron campaigned for a France that is open to people, goods and ideas from abroad, and to social change at home.”

The Economist pointed out that Macron had passed sensible reforms, including loosening France’s rigid labour laws.

“Before he turned up, France looked unreformable — offering voters a choice between sclerosis and xenophobia,” the magazine said.

“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.”

The title, awarded since 2013, goes to a country that has notably changed for the better over the past 12 months, or “made the world brighter”.

The Economist said the longlist candidates this year were Bangladesh, for taking in so many Rohingya refugees fleeing neighbouring Myanmar, and Argentina, for enacting painful reforms to restore a sense of fiscal sobriety.

However, the shortlist came down to France and South Korea, which was cleaning up its domestic politics while under the threat of a nuclear apocalypse.

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