- + Increasing support for far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, has Macron rooting for indecisive voters
- + Macron’s plan for the elections has a clear European and international approach.
- + The union of Socialist and Greens around one candidate might also pose a problem for Macron’s run.
Why is Macron’s heat level mild?
Answer: The French President has taken a turn right in his policies due to challenges arising.
Emmanuel Macron got to power in the French presidential elections of 2017 through his own party, La Republique en Marche! He portrayed himself as liberal and progressive candidate, France’s great economic reformer and the man that would bring the country back to the forefront of not only European but also international politics.
Much has changed in the French scenery since 2017. The first half of Macron’s presidency has been marked by multiple crises; the gilets jaunes, the Islamic terrorism and the Covid-19 pandemic amongst them. This has undermined Macron’s popular image.
Macron’s decision of eliminating the tax on large fortunes that had been approved by former president François Hollande, coupled with the green tax on petrol that mostly affected the middle- and low-income population and triggered the crisis of the gilets jaunes, led Macron to be named as the “President of the rich”. Although the gilets jaunes protests that took place in 2018 seem to be a thing of the past, their spirit of discontent against the political and economic elites is still very much alive and kicking.
In addition to this, Macron has started taking a shift to the right these past months. Since he named the then unknown Jean Castex as his new Prime Minister in July 2020, the French President has made of law and order his main objective, alongside with the fight against Islamic extremism, just this past month he has passed two new laws regarding this aspect: the New Global Security Law and the Law Against Religious Separatism.
Although these actions might seem unwise in a country where around 10% of the population is Muslim and might see these new laws as an attack to both their religion and their freedom there is a clear objective behind Macron’s plan.
With the presidential elections coming up in 2022 and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen rising in the polls, Macron takes this turn to try and win over undecided center-right voters and thus secure his re-election next year.
Who is changing Macron’s level?
Answers: Marine Le Pen’s popular support seems to be growing at the same time that the left wing has a new rising star.
According to the latest polls, the two leading candidates for the French presidential elections of 2022 are the same that last time, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, however, there is a difference now. Le Pen, the leader of the populist party Rassemblement National, has 46% of the people’s support at a head-to-head pole with the current president. While Macron obviously gets a winning 54% this margin is significantly smaller than that of the last elections.
Having changed her political platform’s main message from cultural aspects to a more traditional right-wing economic approach has left Le Pen closer to the presidency than ever before. Le Pen’s slight shift to a normalization of her party, with specific economic plans has proved to be more appealing to voters.
On the other side of the spectrum, France’s political left wing seems to be experiencing a renaissance. After the last defeats in the presidential elections almost left them completely away from the political sphere, things seem to be getting better while they rally around the figure of Paris’ mayor, Anne Hidalgo.
French socialism might be soon giving the rest of the world a lesson. By allying themselves with the Green parties, such as Europe Ecologie les Verts, who came third in the 2017 elections, just behind Le Pen, the Socialists have established environmental left-wing control in several of the most important French cities, including Lyon, Marseille and Paris, completely overtaking Macron’s party, who didn’t manage to get control of any of the big electorates.
Moreover, Macron alienated many of his party’s leftwing voters with his economic reforms and apparent support for the upper classes. Although, thanks to these same policies he has gained voters from the right, he can only hope that there are enough wins to cover for the loses.
So, while Macron and Le Pen fight for the rightwing, the leftist gather around one sole candidate. Anne Hidalgo currently stands out as the best candidate to overtake both Macron and Le Pen.
What is driving Macron?
Answer: Improving his popular image in the run-up to the elections
A quite incoherent management of the Covid-19 pandemic that has more times than not angered the French population has affected Macron’s image negatively. Perceived at first as a competent politician, the numerous crises that he has had to face during the first part of his tenure have undermined his image. Not only regarding the pandemic, but the several bills he has pushed forwards in terms of security and Islamism extremism have raised some eyebrows, not only amongst the French population, but also within the United Nations and some human rights groups.
Although he presented himself as a progressive president, focused in reducing inequalities and empowering the French minorities, it has been quite the opposite. His fight and defense of secularism has been his presentation card nearly since the beginning of his tenure.
This is not going to change, and Macron does not see a reason why it should, as the diplomatic incident with the Muslim communities of northern Africa and the middle east late last year proved. Therefore, as the current President’s image in this aspect is quite established, he is going for a more international approach.
For the upcoming elections, Macron is choosing to portray himself as the person that can give back and sustain France’s international image and power through his strong European and international outlook.
Now that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is retiring, Macron will have the chance to position himself as the strongest member amongst the EU-27, giving France the opportunity of solely taking the lead.
Therefore, by positioning himself as France’s option for a place in the forefront of both European and international politics, Macron is showing to the French electorate that he is something more than the “president of the rich” or the “defender of secularism above everything else”.
What does this mean to you?
Answer: The result of the upcoming French presidential elections could either stabilize or destabilize even more the turbulent international sphere, depending on the result.
First of all, if Macron manages to beat Le Pen, this would be a blow to the far-right movements across Europe, which could see one of their last bastions of power crumble. However, if Le Pen wins the presidential elections the European union could be the one in trouble. Le Pen argued quite thoroughly against the EU and positioned herself as one of Boris Johnson’s and Brexit main defenders. Maybe her anti-European ideas have become more moderate in these past years, but we won’t be able to see until she gets to power, in case that happens.
Secondly, either a win from Macron or Anne Hidalgo would mean a great deal in terms of both, Europe’s and France’s green future. Hidalgo is running in coalition with the French Greens and she has already carried out several environmental projects in Paris, while Macron was the one who worked, alongside Merkel, towards the European Green Deal and European Carbon Neutrality by 2050
Finally, Macron’s win could mean that he could have the chance of putting into play his new plan for the African continent. According to the President, Europe and Africa share a common destiny and face similar crises. In order to solve these issues, Macron proposes a partnership between Europe and Africa that would be marked by real equality.