Bayrou Throws Support Behind Fellow Centrist in France

Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016 (Facebook)

The good news just keeps coming for Emmanuel Macron.

Perennial French presidential candidate François Bayrou endorsed his fellow centrist on Wednesday and announced he would not run this year.

Bayrou, a self-described third-way centrist, was a candidate in 2002, 2007 and 2012. Each time, he failed to qualify for the second-round runoff.

For the elections in April and May, Bayrou had been polling at 5-6 percent support. If all his voters switch to Macron, the former economy minister would easily best the right-wing candidate, François Fillon, and qualify for the crucial second voting round against the National Front’s Marine Le Pen. Read more “Bayrou Throws Support Behind Fellow Centrist in France”

Clinton-Trump Redux in France

After Britain voted to exit the European Union and America elected Donald Trump, the French ambassador to Washington DC, Gerard Araud, tweeted in despair: “A world is collapsing before our eyes.”

Now his home country has a chance to breathe new life into the liberal world order the English-speaking powers have turned their backs on.

After decades of statism, and five years of ineffectual Socialist Party rule, there is finally a critical mass for reform in France.

Brexit has also revived French enthusiasm for the European project. French support for the EU has shot up 10 points to 67 percent, according to an Ifop poll.

And Trump’s crude nationalism is showing the French the ugly reality of hysterical patriotism and anti-Muslim bigotry, both of which have been creeping up on them in recent years.

These three threads come together in the presidential candidacy of Emmanuel Macron. Read more “Clinton-Trump Redux in France”

Stars Align in Emmanuel Macron’s Favor in France

Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016 (Facebook)

Emmanuel Macron’s chances of winning the French presidency have never looked so good.

Recent surveys have him neck and neck with the conservative candidate, François Fillon. In some, he is even beating Fillon into third place, which would give Macron a spot in the second-round runoff against Marine Le Pen.

What’s changed from a few weeks ago, when Macron was in third place, is that the Socialists have nominated a far-leftist, Benoît Hamon, for the presidency and Fillon has been caught up in an expenses scandal. Read more “Stars Align in Emmanuel Macron’s Favor in France”

Hamon’s Victory Could Help Macron in French Presidential Election

Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016 (Facebook)

By picking Benoît Hamon, a relatively inexperienced far-leftist, over the reformer Manuel Valls on Sunday to lead the French Socialist Party into the elections in April and May, the left may have thrown away what little chance it had of retaining the presidency.

Emmanuel Macron must be smiling. The defeat of his former boss could have hardly come at a better moment for the former economy minister, who is running for president independently.

Earlier this week, it emerged that his Republican opponent, François Fillon, had paid his wife around €500,000 from parliamentary funds over a period of eight years for an assistant’s job when it is unclear she did the work. Read more “Hamon’s Victory Could Help Macron in French Presidential Election”

Macron Crowds Center in French Presidential Election

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron and European foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini participate in a discussion during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron and European foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini participate in a discussion during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22 (EEAS)

Emmanuel Macron, France’s former economy minister, made official on Wednesday what political observers had suspected for months: he is running for president next year.

Although the announcement was a long time coming, it could still have an unexpected impact on the contest, which so far has seemed certain to end in victory for the center-right candidate, Alain Juppé. Read more “Macron Crowds Center in French Presidential Election”

Macron Still an Unlikely Contender for French Presidency

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron attends a tech conference in Paris, December 11, 2014
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron attends a tech conference in Paris, December 11, 2014 (LeWeb)

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron stepped down on Tuesday, presumably to plan a presidential candidacy for the election next year.

“I have touched the limits of our system, the last-minute compromises, its imperfect solutions,” Macron said in a speech. “I want to start a new phase of my fight today.”

He stopped short of revealing his presidential ambitions, but coming four months after the launch of his own centrist political movement, En Marche!, there is little doubt in France what the former investment banker is up to. Read more “Macron Still an Unlikely Contender for French Presidency”

Valls More Likely to Succeed Hollande Than Macron

Mark Rutte, Manuel Valls and Alexis Tsipras, the prime ministers of the Netherlands, France and Greece, meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 21
Mark Rutte, Manuel Valls and Alexis Tsipras, the prime ministers of the Netherlands, France and Greece, meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 21 (WEF/Valeriano Di Domenico)

France’s François Hollande is beset by rivals from inside his left-wing coalition. On the far left, former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg is mulling a presidential bid. On the right of the Socialist Party, Montebourg’s successor, Emmanuel Macron, just launched a “movement” that seems to serve no purpose other than to advance the former investment banker’s political ambitions.

But if Hollande is successfully challenged for the left’s presidential nomination, or decides not to run for reelection in 2017 at all, the man currently serving as his prime minister looks like the safer bet. Read more “Valls More Likely to Succeed Hollande Than Macron”

Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties

Emmanuel Macron Federica Mogherini
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron and European foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini participate in a discussion during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22 (EEAS)

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron launched a political movement on Wednesday that he says aims to unite people from the left and the right around a program of reform.

Macron, nominally a Socialist, denied that the movement is meant to propel him into a presidential candidacy for 2017, but French presidential hopefuls do have a tendency to launch political “movements” one of two years out from an election.

Macron’s announcement comes only days after former conservative party secretary Jean-François Copé launched his own bid for the presidency. The rightwinger fell out with his former boss and current party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2014 over a financial scandal and would now seek to deny him the Republicans’ presidential nomination.

Neither Copé nor Macron is likely to end up as a presidential candidate, let alone president of France. But the noise they’re making speaks volumes about the perceived timidity of their respective party leaders: Sarkozy and his successor, François Hollande. Read more “Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties”

French Economy Minister Seeks to Buy Time with Deregulation

French president François Hollande speaks with his economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, in the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 26
French president François Hollande speaks with his economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, in the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 26 (Elysée)

France’s economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, unveiled a series of economic reforms on Wednesday that are meant to convince the country’s European Union partners it is committed to liberalization even as it fails to meet the bloc’s budget rules this year.

On the day France submitted its budget to Brussels for review, Macron presented a deregulation bill that would allow more stores to open on Sundays, free up competition in intercity bus transport and loosen rules for regulated professions such as chemists and notaries.

“The weight of laws and rules has become unbearable,” Macron told a news conference. “We need to simplify, drastically.”

Macron, a former investment banker, served as President François Hollande’s personal economic advisor before he replaced the far-leftist Arnaud Montebourg as economy minister in August. Montebourg lost his job after describing France’s efforts to rein in its deficit spending as “financial absurdity.”

Whether Macron can buy time for fiscal consolidation with his liberal reforms remains to be seen.

Earlier this month, the government rejected deeper austerity, prompting criticism is was reneging on its commitments. The European Commission could fine France for failing to bring its deficit in line with the 3 percent treaty limit. It had previously promised to reduce its shortfall by next year, a deadline that had already been extended from 2013.

The French economy expanded just .2 percent last year after zero growth in 2012, the year Socialist Party leader Hollande was elected president. The national statistics agency forecasts .7 percent growth for 2014 while the government had based its fiscal plans on 1 percent growth.

Absent from Macron’s reform plans were any proposals to reduce France’s high labor costs which, at €34 per hour, they far exceed the European average of €23. They are particularly burdensome because nonwage costs, including high social contributions for employers, make up a third of the average salary.

France’s 34.4 percent corporate tax rate is also more than twice as high as Germany’s 15.8 percent rate.

Hollande Signals Pro-Business Policy with Economy Appointment

Barack Obama Angela Merkel
Enrico Letta, François Hollande, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, the leaders of Italy, France, America and Germany, talk on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 5, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

French president François Hollande has appointed the former banker Emmanuel Macron as his economy minister.

The move suggests the leftist is serious about reducing France’s high deficit and unemployment rate, moving his party in a more centrist direction in the process. Read more “Hollande Signals Pro-Business Policy with Economy Appointment”