En Marche! Emmanuel Macron's journey to the Élysée

He is an ex-banker turned economy minister before launching his own political movement : En Marche !

Despited by both the Socialists (who saw in his dismissal from the former Valls government as a treason) and the Conservatives, Emmanuel Macron is sounding nothing like the average French politician as he vauts both the merits of wealth creation and a strong welfare system. Who is Emmanuel Macron ?

Macron, at 39, would normally be considered at least 15 years too young to mount a serious presidential challenge in France, but the most recent polls show him in third place, just behind the front-runner, the far-right Front National’s leader, Marine Le Pen, and François Fillon, the candidate of the conservative party, Les Républicains.

His rapid rise makes Macron a genuine original in French politics and his opponents do not know what to make of him. Unlike all other serious contenders, he has no visible record of political commitment. In 2004 he graduated from the National School of Administration (ENA) and joined the upper civil service. Then, in 2008, he paid €50,000 to buy himself out of his government contract and became an investment banker with Rothschild, where he was highly regarded and quickly made a small fortune. Then, in 2012, with the election of President Hollande, his career took another unexpected change of direction: he left Rothschild to become deputy secretary-general at the Elysée. When Manuel Valls became Hollande’s second prime minister in 2014, with instructions to deregulate the French economy, Macron was catapulted into the economics ministry.

Macron during his mandat as French Economy Minister.

Hollande and Valls congratulated themselves on an imaginative choice, and Macron set out to please Brussels by cutting France’s deficit while encouraging business activity. In 2015 he introduced la loi Macron, a measure designed to stimulate growth by abolishing public service monopolies and union restrictions on hours. This had to be forced through the National Assembly by decree, against the opposition of Socialist deputies, an unpopular move that consecrated Macron as the bête noire of the left.

As the months in office passed, Macron openly developed a separate political agenda, often disagreeing in public with Valls. Soon after his appointment, a mysterious movement appeared called ‘Les Jeunes avec Macron’ (‘Young people for Macron’). This was launched as a ‘spontaneous’ internet site, but quickly grew into a well-organised group numbering several thousand activists whose average age was said to be 33.

Macron then began to dominate the debate on European and welfare policy — but Hollande and Valls did nothing to rein him in. In 2015, a few days after Hollande insisted that Macron was ‘respecting his authority’, the maverick minister attacked the wealth tax — a central plank of Socialist fiscal policy since it was introduced in 1989. Meanwhile, party leaders mocked his inexperience and lack of support on the left, and estimated his electoral appeal at 6 per cent.

Undaunted, the economics minister announced that he was forming his own political ‘movement’, ‘En Marche!’ (Let’s Go!), ‘open to everyone of progressive views’ and ‘aimed at younger voters’. Last August he started touring French holiday resorts appealing for a vision that would ‘re-forge the country’s politics, culture and ideology’. At the end of the month he announced his resignation, and in November he launched the presidential campaign that he must have been secretly preparing ever since he joined the government.

As a presidential candidate, Macron is seen as an outsider, someone who will ‘break the system’ and challenge the stifling consensus of unions, over-entitled functionaries and remarkably youthful pensioners that prevents France from responding to the challenges of globalization.

Could Emmanuel Macron, a François Hollande protégé, succeed him as president?

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