Macron will run for a second term in France’s April presidential election

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FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference after an extraordinary EU summit on Ukraine in Brussels, February 25, 2022. Macron officially announced he would run for a second term in the April presidential election. In a “letter to the French” published on Thursday March 3 on French media sites, Macron said: “I seek your trust again.” (Olivier Hostlet, Pool Photo via AP, file)

PA

French President Emmanuel Macron formally announced on Thursday that he would seek a second term in April’s presidential election, ahead of which he is already ahead in the polls.

In a “letter to the French” posted on national media websites, Macron said: “I again ask for your trust. I am a candidate to invent with you, in the face of the challenges of the century, a unique French and European response.

Macron, 44, had long indicated that he wanted to run for the election, scheduled for two rounds on April 10 and 24, without formally announcing it so far. But his initial campaign plans have changed since Russia invaded Ukraine.

In recent weeks, the centrist president has devoted most of his time to diplomatic talks with world leaders and coordination with European and Western allies.

Polls suggest Macron is the frontrunner in the race. The conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse and two far-right figures, Marine le Pen and Eric Zemmour, should be her main challengers.

The candidates on the left are divided in the race, none of them appearing in a position to qualify for the second round. Minority Groups Champion Christiane Taubira dropped out of the race this week after failing to garner enough support.

Henri Wallard, chairman of French polling firm Ipsos, said Macron’s candidacy was bolstered by his tenure. Wallard noted that the 21 million viewers who watched Macron’s address to the nation this week focused on the war in Ukraine and its aftermath.

“This is after he spoke to the French nine times during the COVID crisis. So he is not playing in the same team as the other candidates, because he is already in charge and facing a crisis,” said Wallard at the AP.

Macron’s popularity in recent months has remained relatively stable, with an approval rating hovering around 40% according to pollsters – higher than that of his predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy after nearly five years in power.

Even without an official candidacy announcement, Macron was the first candidate to receive the legally required 500 endorsements from elected officials. The rule aims to limit the number of presidential candidates.

Macron said in his letter on Thursday that the war in Ukraine would prevent him from campaigning “as I would have liked”.

Campaign events will be kept to a minimum for now, several French presidential officials said. Macron wants his duties as president at a key moment for the European continent not to be disrupted by his candidacy, they stressed. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, giving Macron a key role in organizing the 27-nation bloc’s response to Russia’s actions.

When Macron was first elected in May 2017 on a pro-business, pro-European platform, he had little political experience. A former investment banker, he was Minister of the Economy from 2014 to 2016 under Socialist President François Hollande.

He won over French voters by promising to bring fresh air to politics, managing to attract support from both center-left and center-right.

Almost five years later, Macron noted that “rarely has France faced such an accumulation of crises”, listing extremist attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Macron has made changes to the economy to boost job creation and reduce corporate taxes. In particular, it relaxed the rules for hiring and firing workers and made it more difficult to obtain unemployment benefits. Critics say his policies threaten the French welfare state.

He faced the first major crisis of his tenure when the anti-government yellow vest protest movement erupted in late 2018.

Named after the vests French drivers must keep in their cars in case of an emergency, it began with protests against a planned fuel tax hike and quickly spread to a broader movement against the economic injustice. For months, weekly protests across the country often escalated into scattered violence.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led Macron to declare the country “at war” against the virus.

After a historic lockdown-fueled recession, his government focused on supporting the economy with a 100 billion euro stimulus package.

The pandemic has forced Macron to delay some economic reforms, including a difficult overhaul of France’s pension system that he previously promised to push through.

“We have not succeeded in everything,” Macron admitted in his letter on Thursday.

“Thanks to the reforms, our industry has again created jobs for the first time and unemployment has reached its lowest level in fifteen years,” he said. The unemployment rate recently reached 7.4%, compared to more than 10% when he took office.

“I am a candidate to continue to prepare the future of our children and our grandchildren,” he said.

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