Political strategy of French meteor: Emmanuel Macron against populists

Author : Kemal Derviş

Macron is trying to garner votes of all the social clusters, taking left and right positions
11:04, 17 February 2017

Read the original text at IPG.

A senior fellow for international security at the New America Scott Malcomson called the leader of the French far-right party National Front, Marine Le Pen one of the founders of the "Nationalist international." But she is not the only political outsider with the good ratings on the eve of the coming spring presidential elections in France.

Emmanuel Macron is also a political outsider, but he has a completely different type.

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After working as Minister of Economy, Industry, and digital technology in the government of French President Francois Hollande, he created his own political movement En Marche! ("Forward!"). He is now running for president as an independent candidate. Macron is only 39 years old, and he has never been a party politician.

Just three months ago, few experts believe in his chances. But he quickly gathered a strong team and began to gain support among the young voters. According to surveys, in the first round of elections in April Macron might get about 20% of the vote. At first glance, this is not enough to get into the second round in May.

Marine Le Pen, whose approval rating hovers around 27%, and François Fillon, who served as prime minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, are the favorites of the first round.

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However, Fillon's candidacy was called into question after he was accused of fictitious employment on work of his wife and children when he was a deputy of the National Assembly. In the meantime, the rating of the candidate from the Left forces Benoît Hamon began to increase after his victory in the primaries of the Socialist party: he is now approaching to 20%.

Neither the left nor the right

Although Macron positions himself as an opponent of the old left and the old rules, he is neither left or right populist nor a traditional centrist. Emotionally and intellectually, he came out of the left-wing movement, but he denies the traditional "class policy".

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Macron is trying to garner votes of all the social clusters. He gives his hand to the workers who feel like being betrayed by "the system", threatened by the globalization and new technologies. At the same time, teachers and health workers believe that the state system of education and health needs deep reforms in order to preserve the social solidarity, which it had supported in the past. But he is also looking for support from the innovators and entrepreneurs who want to weaken the regulation and improving access to the resources.

Macron has not fully formulated his program yet. But Jean Pisani-Ferry, one of the best political economists of France, recently resigned from his post as director of the state France Stratégie analytical center to become Macron’s program director.

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So far, Macron highlights the need for such social solidarity in which the social benefits would become more mobile and universal. He is also advocating the improvement of preventive medicine. He believes that this social policy will complement measures to stimulate economic growth, not to contradict it. He also calls for more support for innovative business.

Bet on the positive

Unlike other political outsiders, Macron would conduct a positive campaign. He is likely to avoid malicious attacks on other candidates, but instead he would prove that France has more to gain from carrying out agreed reforms than a declaration of war against "experts", the press, the capital owners, members of trade unions, immigrants or any other specific population groups.

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Thus Macron becomes a counterweight to today's populists. Using arguments based on facts, and appealing to the humanist and democratic values, he tries to modernize and rejuvenate the left-wing forces, as well as of the right. However, he firmly believes in Europe and supports the establishment of the post of Minister of Finance of the euro zone.

Macron is committed to a more integrated Europe, based on the principles of subsidiarity. He supported the adoption of the decisions on the ground wherever it is possible and effective, and also supports the management of the national and European levels, wherever it is appropriate.

The main requirement is that the decision-making processes are flexible and enable possible participation of citizens. He believes that a single sovereignty will make Europe a more influential and it will enhance the rights of its citizens.

Related: Presidential race in France: Leftist candidates make it to Round 2 of primaries

In addition, he said that globalization is good, but it needs to be managed with the help of long-term effective international agreements and institutions.

Threat to Le Pen

Opinion polls are now much jump because of the scandal with Fillon and growth of support from Benoît Hamon’s leftist voters views that are not part of the Socialist party.

But if Macron takes place in the second round, he will become a more serious threat to Le Pen, than the left candidate. He could be the one who would upset the plans of "Nationalist international."

Moreover, Macron’s victory would allow to run some countertendencies against populism, which now covers the planet, and give hope to all those who, sympathizing with the left or right, are alarmed with populism and hypernationalism.

An alternative could be Le Pen’s  victory and one step back in the 1930s.

Related: Marine Le Pen says Crimea annexation "was not illegitimate"

Presidential elections in France could be a turning point after the British referendum on Brexit and the US presidential election in 2016. A lots of time has left before the first round of elections in late April, and we have become accustomed to surprises and have learned not to trust too much to the preliminary polls.

But it seems that an unusual candidate Macron, not political populist outsiders, would have more chances to win.

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