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Montevideo, October 24th 2017 - 09:18 UTC

Landslide wins for Macron, 66% to 34%; France's elected president managed to create a wave of optimism

Monday, May 8th 2017 - 05:25 UTC
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Macron a year ago was a member of the government of one the most unpopular French presidents in history. Now, at 39, he has won France's presidential election Macron a year ago was a member of the government of one the most unpopular French presidents in history. Now, at 39, he has won France's presidential election
In April 2016, he established his “people-powered” En Marche! (On the move) movement and four months later he stood down from Hollande's government. In April 2016, he established his “people-powered” En Marche! (On the move) movement and four months later he stood down from Hollande's government.
Macron and his optimistic tone was up against Marine Le Pen who came across as negative - anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-system. Macron and his optimistic tone was up against Marine Le Pen who came across as negative - anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-system.

Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate who has been elected as France's next president following his Sunday runoff 66% to 34% victory over Marine Le Pen, has triggered a political earthquake in his country's politics, and his performance will be closely monitored by other EU members, particularly Germany and Italy, facing similarly challenging elections.

 Macron a year ago was a member of the government of one the most unpopular French presidents in history. Now, at 39, he has won France's presidential election, defeating first the mainstream centre left and centre right and now the far right as well. But he has also been lucky, and canny.

A public scandal knocked out the initial frontrunner, centre-right candidate François Fillon; and Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, already on the left fringe of the party, suffered a very public drubbing as traditional voters looked elsewhere.

“He was very lucky, because he was facing a situation that was completely unexpected,” says Marc-Olivier Padis, of Paris-based think tank Terra Nova.

Mr Macron could have gone for the Socialist ticket, but he realized after years in power and dismal public approval ratings the party's voice would always struggle to be heard. “He was able to foresee there was an opportunity when nobody could,” says Mr Padis.

Instead, he looked at political movements that have sprung up elsewhere in Europe - Podemos in Spain, Italy's Five-Star Movement - and saw that there was no equivalent game-changing political force in France.

In April 2016, he established his “people-powered” En Marche! (On the move) movement and four months later he stood down from President François Hollande's government. He tried something new in France.

Having established En Marche, he took his cue from Barack Obama's grassroots 2008 US election campaign, says Paris-based freelance journalist Emily Schultheis. His first major undertaking was the Grande Marche (Big March), when he mobilized his growing ranks of energized but inexperienced En Marche activists.

“The campaign used algorithms from a political firm they worked with - who by the way had volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008, to identify districts and neighborhoods that were most representative of France as a whole,” Ms Schultheis says.

“They sent out people to knock on 300,000 doors”. The volunteers didn't just hand out flyers - they carried out 25,000 in-depth interviews of about 15 minutes with voters across the country. That information was entered into a large database which helped inform campaign priorities and policies.

“It was a massive focus group for Macron in gauging the temperature of the country but also made sure that people had contact with his movement early on, making sure that volunteers knew how to go door to door. It was a training exercise that really laid the groundwork for what he did this year,” Ms Schultheis explains.

The “newcomer” who was President Hollande's protégé and then economy minister; the ex-investment banker running a grassroots movement; the centrist with a radical program to slash the public sector. It was perfect ammunition for run-off rival Marine Le Pen, who said he was the candidate of the elite, not the novice he said he was.

But he dodged attempts to label him as another François Hollande, creating a profile that resonated among people desperate for something new. “There is a very prevalent pessimistic mood in France - in a way, too pessimistic - and he comes with a very optimistic, positive message,” says Marc-Olivier Padis.

“He's young, full of energy, and he's not explaining what he'll do for France but how people will get opportunities. He's the only one to have this kind of message.”

And he was up against Marine Le Pen. Up against his more optimistic tone, Le Pen's message came across as negative - anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-system.

Macron campaign rallies featured brightly lit arenas blaring with pop music, says Emily Schultheis, while Marine Le Pen's mass meetings involved protesters throwing bottles and flares, a heavy police presence, dark audience stands and an “angrier” undercurrent.

The big TV debate on 3 May was an angry affair, with a string of insults hurled by both sides. She was a “grand priestess of fear”, a snake-oil merchant from the same extremist background as her father. He was a Socialist puppet, a dangerous tool of global finance who would do whatever Germany's Angela Merkel asked.

But many were alarmed by the prospect of a potentially destabilizing and divisive far-right presidency and saw him as the last obstacle in her way. The KO statement was when she pledged to eliminate the Euro.

Marine Le Pen may have run a highly effective campaign, but her poll ratings have been on the slide for months. She was ahead in the polls last year, nudging 30%, and yet in just two weeks she has been beaten twice by Emmanuel Macron.

Categories: Politics, International.

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  • Enrique Massot

    Marine and her extreme right bunch failed to dupe the French people. Same as old Jean-Marie, who got some momentum in the 1980s by promising deportation of 2.5 million immigrants as a solution to unemployment--did not go far.
    Vive la France libre!

    May 10th, 2017 - 02:59 am 0
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