THE SUCCESSFUL REBRANDING OF THE NEXT FRENCH PRESIDENT
Written By Antun Katalenić
Progressive, reformer, socialist, leftist, liberal, not a leftist nor a rightist, realist. These are all tags with which the winner of the first round of the French presidential election and the most likely 25th President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron used to describe himself.
These elections follow the wider European trend in the sense that both major parties lost much of their support. The candidate of Les Républicains François Fillon, like his Socialist counterpart Benoît Hamon, failed to make it into the second round where Macron, in a virtual repeat of the 2002 election, will face a candidate of the right wing Front national Marine Le Pen. If we are to believe the polls, which got round one right, Macron, like Jacques Chirac 15 years ago, is heading for a convincing victory.
Emmanuel Macron is running for political office for the the first time in his career but calling him a novice or even an outsider is absurd.
From a historical perspective these elections are also special in the sense that the current president François Hollande is not running for re-election. A smart move considering his record low approval figures among the French voters. Following Hollande’s ex-Prime minister Manuel Valls’ loss in the Socialist primaries, no candidate was left to represent the legacy of the outgoing administration. Really though?
Emmanuel Macron is running for political office for the the first time in his career but calling him a novice or even an outsider is absurd. Macron acted as Hollande’s economy adviser prior to spending 24 months in Valls’ second government as Minister of economy, industry and digital affairs. In his time in office he even got a law named after him – Loi Macron. A seemingly less important part of legislation that deals with Sunday work reveals his wider agenda that is based on market-friendly policies of flexibilisation and liberalisation of the labour market. Nowhere was that more visible than in the labour law passed last year – Loi El Khomri, named after Minister of labour Myriam El Khomri – a law in which Macron had much say.
From Le Pen supporters’ perspective Macron seems like the perfect stereotype.
The legislation that eases sacking and hiring of people by lowering severance pay, diminishing unions’ role and flexibilisation of the 35-hour work week, struck one last blow to the already vastly unpopular government which the 39-year old Macron, like an experienced politician, left at the right time and went on to start his movement, now party, En Marche!
Emmanuel Macron is a representative of the outgoing president’s policies. While Hollande tried to hide behind the name and the red colour of his Parti Socialiste, Macron is hiding behind promises of bridging the Left-Right divide and much talk of his progressiveness. He is in fact using the tactics from his days at the so called Commission for the Liberation of French Growth during Nicolas Sarkozy’s tenure as president where the commission headed by Jacques Attali, masking behind claims of apolitical, independent and expert analysis, proposed economic measures aimed at eroding the social welfare state.
In a way both candidates managed to distance themselves from the unpopular politics of which they were a part of.
Moreover Macron was publicly endorsed by his former boss Manuel Valls and also François Hollande. To be fair, the latter acting more as the opposition to Marine Le Pen. Others that have endorsed and congratulated this “outsider” include the likes of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Jean Claude Juncker, Federica Mogherini and so forth.
From Le Pen supporters’ perspective Macron seems like the perfect stereotype. But don’t tell him that. When faced with his past he much rather brings up his working class grandparents than his parents who were both doctors.
A student of a private school in his hometown of Amiens, later attended the elite Lycée Henri-IV in Paris, before getting his degree from the École nationale d’administration in Strasbourg – a school so elite, a third of every administration’s ministers since 1960’s have attended it. After working in the aforementioned commission he joined Rothschild & Cie Banque before going into politics.
In a way both candidates managed to distance themselves from the unpopular politics of which they were a part of. Marine Le Pen made the ultimate symbolic cut from her father’s anti-Semitic and racist policies with resigning from the presidential post of her party. When Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the second round 15 years ago masses took to the streets to protest however this time around few did. Emmanuel Macron on the other hand has managed to convince the media and the public about the innovativeness of his policies.
A version of this article was first published on Radio Študent.