Mav­er­ick Macron enters French pres­i­den­tial race

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: Po­lit­i­cal out­sider Em­manuel Macron joined the in­creas­ingly un­pre­dictable race for France’s pres­i­dency yes­ter­day, vow­ing to take on “the same men and the same ideas” that dom­i­nate na­tional pol­i­tics.

Macron, a 38-year-old for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter, an­nounced as widely ex­pected that he will stand as an independent in next year’s vote, backed by his cen­trist move­ment “En Marche” (“On the Move”). Never elected and “nei­ther of the left or the right” in his own words, the pro-busi­ness and tech­savvy for­mer in­vest­ment banker is hop­ing to shake up a race dom­i­nated by older, more fa­mil­iar faces. “We have en­tered a new era,” Macron de­clared yes­ter­day, re­fer­ring to a cri­sis for West­ern democ­ra­cies as well as the dan­gers of global warm­ing and grow­ing in­equal­ity. “We can’t re­spond with the same men and the same ideas,” he added at a news con­fer­ence held sym­bol­i­cally at a jobs train­ing cen­tre in a gritty Parisian sub­urb.

The cen­tre-right Repub­li­cans party is tipped to win the two-stage elec­tion in April and May. But some an­a­lysts are ques­tion­ing such as­sump­tions after Don­ald Trump’s stun­ning up­set in the United States.

Macron’s en­try adds an­other el­e­ment of un­cer­tainty, with the Repub­li­cans and rul­ing So­cial­ist par­ties yet to nom­i­nate their can­di­dates less than six months be­fore the vot­ing. The resur­gent far-right Na­tional Front un­der leader Marine Le Pen, who an­nounced her slo­gan “In the name of the peo­ple” yes­ter­day, is seek­ing new mo­men­tum after Trump’s win.

Dis­miss­ing Macron as “a can­di­date of the banks”, she said yes­ter­day that “there is un­de­ni­ably a new world emerg­ing and there is an old or­der that is col­laps­ing in on it­self.” Her new cam­paign head­quar­ters are close to the pres­i­den­tial palace on one of Paris’ most ex­pen­sive streets, lead­ing her to joke about hav­ing to travel “only 1.7 kilo­me­ters” to claim power.

Empty po­lit­i­cal sys­tem

Macron, who quit the be­lea­guered So­cial­ist govern­ment in Au­gust to fo­cus on his own po­lit­i­cal move­ment, is ex­pected to steal cen­trist vot­ers from the Repub­li­cans as well as the left. A poll Tues­day showed him as one of France’s most “pres­i­den­tial” fig­ures be­hind the elec­tion favourite Alain Juppe, a 71-year-old for­mer prime min­is­ter with one of the long­est CVs in French pol­i­tics.

Juppe is fa­vored over ex-pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy and for­mer prime min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon for the Repub­li­cans’ nom­i­na­tion, but polls are tight­en­ing ahead of pri­mary vot­ing this Sun­day and next. Macron has a mere two years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in govern­ment, serv­ing as a some­times re­bel­lious econ­omy min­is­ter from 2014-2016 and as an eco­nomic ad­vi­sor to his one-time men­tor, Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande. “I be­lieve that the French peo­ple won’t put their des­tiny in the hands of some­one with no ex­pe­ri­ence,” Fil­lon said yes­ter­day.

But Macron be­lieves youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence are as­sets in a coun­try weary of a po­lit­i­cal class blamed for years of low growth, high un­em­ploy­ment and mount­ing govern­ment debt. “Our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is blocked,” said the high-fly­ing grad­u­ate of elite uni­ver­si­ties who wrote a the­sis on Machi­avelli, the fa­mously schem­ing Ital­ian po­lit­i­cal the­o­rist.

Macron, who quit Hol­lande’s govern­ment in Au­gust, threw new barbs at his ex-boss yes­ter­day. “I’ve seen the empti­ness of our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem from the in­side,” he said. Macron is left-wing on so­cial is­sues, pledg­ing to bring jobs to de­prived ar­eas and a de­fender of public ser­vices, but also probusi­ness, no­tably as a vo­cal critic of France’s strict labour laws. A mav­er­ick in pol­i­tics as well as in his pri­vate life, the ac­com­plished pi­anist is mar­ried to his for­mer school­teacher, a di­vorcee with three chil­dren who is some 20 years his senior. Pres­i­dent Hol­lande, who has yet to an­nounce whether he will run in next year’s elec­tion, is re­port­edly fu­ri­ous at what he sees as be­trayal by his one-time pro­tege. The pres­i­dent called Tues­day for “co­he­sion” and “unit­ing” in the di­vided So­cial­ist party. Hol­lande is one of the most un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dents since World War II after a five-year term marked by mul­ti­ple ter­ror at­tacks, stub­bornly high un­em­ploy­ment and Uturns on key poli­cies.

He was widely panned, even by his own prime min­is­ter, after agree­ing to col­lab­o­rate for a tell-all book pub­lished in Oc­to­ber in which he crit­i­cised min­is­ters, judges and the na­tional foot­ball team.

BO­BIGNY, France: For­mer French Econ­omy Min­is­ter Em­manuel Macron de­liv­ers a speech dur­ing a press con­fer­ence to an­nounce his can­di­dacy for next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion yes­ter­day.

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