Emmanuel Macron’s new political movement highlights key deficiencies in the current French political sphere and exemplifies the risks generated by President Hollande’s diminished power.
It is with a slick campaign-like video that the government’s wonder kid, Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron, launched his political movement. En Marche! is officially to be used as a network to foster bi-partisan discussions among liberals.
As soon as the movement had been presented, Macron stated his loyalty to President Hollande and the current government. He also claimed that his organisation was initially meant to facilitate the exchange of ideas and strengthen the executive power in its bid to push forward socio-economic reforms.
While, at this moment, discussions concerning a potential Macron candidacy at the 2017 presidential elections are no more than speculations, these underscore a set of deeper issues in the current French political sphere. The hopes, as well as the vivid criticisms, that Emmanuel Macron sparked in early April exemplify a deep uncertainty in the country’s political sphere.
Macron: the downfall of Hollande
President Francois Hollande run in 2012 with the promise of a strong economic growth built on socialist principles aimed at reducing high unemployment rates. As he enters his fourth year in office, unemployment rates have increased substantially since 2012 and the country now counts more than 3.85 million unemployed people.
With a stagnant growth and the government’s inability to structurally reform France’s labour market, President Hollande seems set not to reach the targets he had set himself and his government ahead of the 2017 elections.
This situation is noteworthy as it highlights the possibility for the Socialist Party to opt for a different candidate for the 2017 polls. In November 2014, President Hollande had already stated he would not run if he didn’t manage to cut unemployment rates.
This uncertainty over the socialist candidate in 2017 is increasingly looking like a temporary power vacuum at the head of the ruling party. An opinion poll conducted by YouGov on April 7th underscores that approximately 50% of left-wing voters would want primaries to be held to decide the leftist candidate for 2017.
In such a vote, President Hollande is unlikely to win as 75% of electors do not want him to be the socialist front-runner in 2017.
This authority crisis at the head of the Socialist Party creates tensions that are likely to lead to the creation of factions within the party. The emergence of Macron’s political movement already led to criticisms by Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of the Socialist Party.
In addition, Macron is keeping his options open in regard to a potential candidacy, something that is expected to lead to additional frictions with the Prime Minister Manuel Valls, another hopeful to whom the spot for socialist candidate seems to be opening up.
Macron: the providential man?
Since General de Gaulle return to politics in 1958, the French political field has been passionate about the ideal of the “providential man.” A sort of political outsider, the providential man is seen as a charismatic leader that breaks the conventional structure of the political game.
This can in part be explained by the high degree of conformity present in the French administration, in which a large part of the ruling class attend a limited number of higher education facilities and have similar professional experiences.
The current socio-economic crisis linked to growing uncertainties over President Hollande role in 2017 creates a situation ripe for those hoping to be seen as providential figure. Nowhere is this situation more visible than on the centre-right.
Les Republicains have now 12 candidates while former President Sarkozy is still delaying his official entry into the race. This unprecedented volume of candidates shows the lack of a single political line and each one’s hope to obtain some relative gain from the race.
In this predicament, the creation of En Marche! makes of Macron an optimal candidate for a socialist role of the providential man. He is the most liked centre-left politician in France, with an approval rate of 46%.
With his young age, relative competition with Prime Minister Valls and socio-democratic leanings Macron breaks with the Socialist Party traditional structure and the left-wing side of Holland’s politics.
The buzz his movement created is however to be seen as a symptom of the wider ideological crisis in France’s centre left party.
His emergence as a providential politician may be hindered by those strongly opposed to his liberal policies as well as by the traditional interest and power groups that continue to control the Socialist Party.
Macron: a blessing for the FN?
The En Marche! movement underscores a deeper risk for both Les Republicains and the Socialist Party. As Macron calls for a wide coalition linking liberals from the right and the left, the Front National (FN) sees it as a confirmation of its claims.
The FN’s vice president, Florian Philippot, issued a statement claiming that Macron embodies the “UMPS,” an acronym meant to signify the fusion between the centre-right UMP (now Les Republicains) and the Socialist Party.
It is with claims that the ruling right-wing and left-wing parties have the same policies and same objectives that the FN managed to carve itself a large position in the French electoral system.
The current political vacuum on the centre-right and the centre-left is leading to weak policy initiatives and the lack of a strong leader figure.
The crisis of the traditional French parties and the emergence of several hopeful providential men enable the FN to push his agenda in a bid to gain a strong support for the 2017 elections.