After months of speculation, Emmanuel Macron, the young and charismatic former economy minister and adviser to Francois Hollande, has announced that he is running for President as an independent.
This is bad for the French left.
There is no doubt in the ability of Macron; he is a young, charismatic, and able individual who would undoubtedly make a fantastic President of France, if he had a chance of getting elected. He is very popular across the political spectrum, finding a lot of support with those left, right, and centre, with people citing him as the ‘second most popular politician in France’, after Alain Juppé (whose own political future is in doubt after the first round of the Right’s primary). Even I have constantly referred to him as like a ‘French Tony Blair, except he’s actually popular with the Left’. But the fact that he is running his own bid as an independent raises a great multitude of problems for an already fragmented French left.
There is but very little doubt that the next election will end up with a clean second-round run between Marine Le Pen and whoever the Right pick as their candidate, at this point looking to be either former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, or former Prime Minister Francois Fillon. A fight between the two right wing candidates will only come about, however, because the left in France is split. Because of the way the French system works, the two candidates with the most votes in the first round go into a run-off just between those two. Because the left vote is likely to split between whoever the Socialists pick as their nominee (my backing is with Arnaud Montebourg) and Emmanuel Macron, then the Left will not have a candidate in the second round. Adding to the problem, the parliamentary election is already looking like a two-horse race between the Republicans and Front National, with the Socialists in a very distant third. These two factors paired will ultimately scupper any chances for the French Left to make any sort of recovery for the next five years.
That is not to say that they’ll make some form of comeback, as we saw the French local elections and European elections gave rise to the National Front, but if the Socialist Party remains marked by Hollande’s appalling record as President then they may suffer the same fate as our Labour Party at the last election.
Had Macron remained a member of the Socialist Party and announced a bid for the Socialist nomination, it is likely he’d be the favourite to win the nomination.
I will concede that it is early days now, and who knows? Maybe Macron or whoever the Socialists pick will pull off a Trump style upset and sweep to victory. Or the same thing will happen to Le Pen. Who knows?! That’s what’s exciting about elections! You think you know what’s going to happen and suddenly the complete opposite happens.
Best thing we can do is watch, wait, and see.
Picture source: Pablo Tupin-Noriega (Own work) [ CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) ], via Wikimedia Commons.