In the race to be the next French president, Emmanuel Macron is the pro-globalisation candidate. He promotes free markets and liberal economic policies, is relaxed about immigration, and is unashamedly pro-EU. In many ways, Macron is the anti-Trump (or, perhaps more pertinently, the anti-Le Pen).
Yet his liberal economic policies are also mixed in with ideas from the centre-left. He wants to implement a €50 billion public investment plan to modernise French infrastructure and transition to renewable energy, provide more support for those on low incomes, and he sees state-funded education as a tool for greater social mobility. With his youthful good-looks, natural charisma and blend of centre-left and centre-right policies, many people see in Emmanuel Macron a French Tony Blair.
Critics believe he is a neo-liberal wolf in ‘centrist’ sheep’s clothing. Before entering politics, he worked as an investment banker. He has promised big cuts in corporation tax, and reforms to make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees or even renegotiate the hallowed 35-hour working week. Macron believes this sort of structural reform is needed to bring France’s unemployment rate down from roughly 10% to (he hopes) 7% by the end of his term.
With many French voters worried about terrorism, security has been high on the agenda during the campaign. Macron favours greater defence cooperation at the EU level, and has vowed to keep European economic sanctions in place against Russia. He wants to reintroduce compulsory conscription, and has accused Marine Le Pen of exploiting terror attacks for political gain.
To read more about France and the future of European defence (including more on the policies of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen), check out Friends of Europe’s recent report on the topic.
Macron rejects accusations he is elitist, and points to the fact he came from relatively modest beginnings in a provincial French town. He says he ‘climbed the ranks with the help of school’. The climb has certainly been swift. Five years ago, Emmanuel Macron was not even in politics; he served for several years as Minister of the Economy in Manuel Valls’ government, but he’s never stood for election before (not even in local government).
It’s his status as an ‘outsider’ that makes him attractive to many voters. Opponents say that Emmanuel Macron wants to be all things to all people, and that his programme is vague and woolly. He counters that the traditional left-wing/right-wing model of French politics is broken, and that he represents a new way. Whether French voters believe him remains to be seen.
What do you think of Emmanuel Macron? Is he the right candidate to lead France? Or is he a neo-liberal wolf in ‘centrist’ sheep’s clothing? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!