Emmanuel Macron, former Economy minister under François Hollande’s government, creator of his own party En Marche, was defined by media as the third man at the beginning of the country’s 2017 presidential race.
Indeed, since the primary that surprisingly elected Fillion the Republican candidate, all the polls indicated that he would have to confront Marine Le Pen, the far-right Front National (FN) candidate in May.
However, less than three months from the first round of the presidential election, the polls are telling a different story. The once outsider in this election now stands an actual chance.
How? First, Macron is associated with the centre-left of French politics. His disassociation from the Parti Socialiste (PS) turned to his advantage after Benoît Hamon won that party’s primary.
Hamon is known for his far-left views which have alienated some electors with more moderate and centred opinions. Some have argued his views are too similar to Mélenchon, the candidate from the far-left party, further dividing the part of the French population that would have cast its vote for him. Therefore, Macron could potentially attract socialist voters who do not feel represented by Hamon.
Furthermore, after the scandal surrounding Fillon’s wife emerged in January (when it was revealed that he paid her and his son for working for him while they, in fact, never did), the Republican has lost the trust of the electorate. However, as he still represents the only right candidate against Le Pen, he should not be considered a weak opponent to Macron.
The international media has become worried by the political ascension of Le Pen, caused by the growing mistrust of mainstream parties (especially in the Presidency), and the recent wave of terrorism on French soil. Indeed, many French people are concerned about security and immigration, but are above all tired of traditional politics. This is why many are turning to the Front National and Macron. Yet, some are concerned that the newcomer has still to deliver a full manifesto, enlightening the electorate on his true policy positions.
Still, Macron has won the interest of many young electors who were feeling excluding from politics. Through his sense of innovation and progress, his use of social media and his dynamism, the leader of En Marche has made them feel included in this new presidential election. As Marine Le Pen is defined as the alternative from traditional politics, Macron is the modernism of french politics itself, perhaps for once in unity with modern time, and therefore modern problems.
However, since one interview in which he described colonisation as a ‘crime against humanity’, French politics and media have been turning his comments against him in a way that could damage his political image to the electorate. France, unlike other former colonial powers, has not yet been able to overcome its past. The possibility for a Macron win will depend on how smoothly he can overcome this new obstacle.