Is Macron a Competitive Candidate?

By Yllka Krasniqi

French presidential candidate poses an option for voters dissatisfied with the left and the right

Macron, the former Minister of Economy and finance under President Hollande, is running as a candidate in the French presidential elections for his new party, “En Marche!” (Moving On!) The 39-year old politician has presented an option for those in France who are dissatisfied with both the left and the right. Positioning himself as a centrist — “neither left nor right,” Macron has shaken up French politics. He has gained thousands of supporters, with over 12,000 attending marches in Paris and 4,000 in Lille.

Macron can be regarded as an economic and social liberal. As a former investment banker at Rothschild in Paris, he is the likely business candidate. He has proposed key measures such as removing over-regulation in the French economy and implementing business-friendly policies such as loosening Sunday-trading rules. In addition, he hopes to foster competition in the French economy by reforming the labour market by ending the 35-hour work week. Other policies that he advocates for include decreasing wage taxation for the lowest-paid workers in France. Macron appears to cater for both the left-wing voters in France that are low-skilled, as well as the wealthier middle classes with the elements of competitiveness in his economic policy. In terms of social issues, Macron has proposed the reform of the French education system. He hopes to offer more autonomy to schools as well as in promoting apprenticeships.

However, both Fillon and Le Pen will be fierce competitors for Macron. Fillon is the centre-right candidate that will put up a fight against Macron. However, Fillon is embroiled in a corruption scandal in which he is accused of paying his wife and children over €1m of public money as parliamentary assistance, with little evidence of work conducted. He maintains a strong free-market and pro-business stance in which he believes that there should be increased flexibility of the labour market and increased tax breaks for companies. Macron persists as the main threat against Fillon as both hope to achieve centrist and right wing supporters. With the scandal unfolding further, it seems that it may be a fatal blow to his candidacy.

Le Pen, on the other hand, is a greater opponent for Macron. By de-demonising her party, Marine Le Pen is hoping to attract a broader appeal from all sections of society, particularly the middle classes and the female vote. In addition, Le Pen hopes to play on the fears of the recent terrorist attacks that swept France as well as the refugee crisis. She has proposed that France should leave the Euro, hold a referendum on EU membership, lower the retirement age and lower income tax. It is likely that Le Pen’s populist rhetoric that chimes of anti-globalisation and anti-liberalisation will be met with support for many sections of the French electorate. This is evidenced by the polls which estimate that Le Pen will win 25% of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections.

The French presidential election is one of the most uncertain elections. Shockwaves will be ripple across the world with the decision of the new President whichever candidate is chosen.

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