Who is Emmanuel Macron? We profile the rising French presidential candidate
Emmanuel Macron, a late bloomer in France’s volatile presidential election, has unveiled a manifesto that combines elements of fiscal restraint and stimulus, deregulation and tighter rules on corruption, a clean-up and a speeding-up of French politics.
Macron now looks more likely to face off against populist candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting than former front-runner François Fillon, who increasingly faces calls to drop out of the race due to scandals over payments made to his wife and undisclosed loans. Having broken his promise to quit if he was placed under formal investigation, Fillon has lost many of his team and much of his credibility.
On 9 March Macron took the lead in first-round election polling, when a Harris Interactive poll showed him taking 26% of the vote to Le Pen’s 25%.
It is unlikely that anyone will receive an outright majority in the first round of voting, scheduled for 23 April. The top two candidates will face each other in a second round on 7 May.
Having quit his position as economy minister in François Hollande’s socialist government in August, Macron is running for the presidency as an independent. A former civil servant and investment banker, he is economically and socially liberal but pro-business, and has created a new political party, En Marche, which he describes as neither left- nor right-leaning.
So what does he believe in?
Delivering his manifesto, Macron criticised Fillon’s plans to slash 500,000 public sector jobs and cut public spending by €100bn, as well as his declared admiration for the late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. “The future of France is not a set of British-style reforms from the ‘80s,” said Macron.
But Macron does want to reform government, announcing in February that he would cut 120,000 jobs by not replacing retiring civil servants – part of a plan to find annual cost savings of €60bn by 2022. He has vowed to keep the pension age at 62 – Fillon would raise it to 65 – but he does want to reform the system so that government and private sector workers get the same deal.
Macron’s manifesto includes policies to both clean up and speed up French politics, including cutting both houses of parliament by a third, merging some regional administrations, introducing term limits and banning officials from hiring family members.
“The society I want will be both free of constraints and blockages, and protective of the weakest,” he said.
En Marche is pro-EU, but Macron has criticised the state of European democracy and called for greater measures to engage citizens and develop a shared vision for the bloc. He wants greater integration of energy markets and defence forces, and has said he would introduce a “Buy European Act”, which would limit public contracts to companies with at least half their operations in Europe.
He has pledged to protect the integrity of the Single Market during Brexit negotiations.
Macron’s manifesto includes a number of tax reforms, such as a cut in corporate income tax from 33.3% to 25%, a flat 30% tax on capital gains, and the abolition of a local poll tax for four-fifths of households.
He also proposed a €50bn investment programme to modernise agriculture and support renewable energy, medical innovation and training for the unemployed; plus a €10bn fund to promote industrial and research projects. The latter would be financed by selling government shares in major firms.
On security, Macron, the youngest presidential candidate at 39 years old, said he would hire 10,000 more police, increase military spending to 2% of GDP, and create an anti-terrorism intelligence unit.
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