French President, Emmanuel Macron, has rolled out his re-election platform on Thursday, March 17, 2022, vowing to strengthen France’s sovereignty and steer the country through what he called a new era of crisis.
Macron’s lead ahead of next month’s election has grown in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has pulled clear of rivals ahead of the first round on April 10, 2022, as polls suggested him comfortably beating opponents in a run-off.
Speaking at a conference in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, Mr. Macron disclosed that “We are at a tipping point where we can make a real difference”. He also used the platform to highlight the crisis on the European Union’s doorstep and the global challenge of climate change.
“Many of the things that we have to do today, in a time of crisis, and that we will have to do in the coming months and years will structure the life of our country in the long run.”French President, Emmanuel Macron
The French leader said he looks forward to making France a more self-sufficient country that will be a key objective, hence, outlining plans to bolster the country’s agricultural and industrial independence, strengthen the army and build more nuclear reactors.
Nuclear power “is the only option that allows us to reduce our carbon emissions in an efficient, rapid and sovereign way“.
The French President also said he wants to build a “European metaverse” to compete with US tech giants in order to make Europe more independent on that front too.
Plan for French voters
As he launched his campaign, Macron could count on an economic boom that French voters had not seen in a long while, a point he stressed at the start of his news conference.
“I had promised to lower unemployment – despite the crises, we did it. The rate of unemployment is at its lowest level for 15 years, the youth unemployment rate is at its lowest level for 40 years, and the participation rate is at its highest level since we’ve been measuring it”, adding that none of the results achieved can be considered enough.
“We will continue with reforms to the labour market, continuing to simplify social dialogue, continuing to give visibility to employers and employees. We will continue with reforms to unemployment insurance to adapt it to the economic situation.”French President, Emmanuel Macron
Away from employment to another issue, Mr. Macron said he would raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, lower inheritance taxes, and step-up public investments in green energy and new technologies, proposals that had already been leaked to the media ahead of the conference.
Additionally, he promised subsidies for home improvements and other measures to fight climate change, such as ensuring access to affordable electric vehicles, including through leasing programmes.
Altogether, the reforms “represent a budgetary effort of 50 billion euros annually up until 2027,” he added, taking into account tax cuts “worth 15 billion euros (annually), split equally between households and businesses.”
A plot to be re-elected without a campaign?
The 44-year-old, who delayed declaring his intention for a second term until the last possible moment, was under pressure to engage with voters and challengers ahead of the election. Some reports suggested that Mr. Macron was busy resolving a looming crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Rivals across the political spectrum, who have struggled to make an impact in recent weeks amid the war in Ukraine, accused the incumbent of attempting to bypass the election campaign.
Conservative Head of the Senate, Gerard Larcher, complained on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, that “The president wants to be re-elected without ever really having been a candidate, without a campaign, without a debate, without a competition of ideas”.
“If there isn’t a campaign, then there will be questions about the legitimacy of the winner,”Conservative Head of the Senate, Gerard Larcher
Macron has taken a leading role in Western diplomatic outreach to stop the war in Ukraine, holding around 20 hours of talks with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, in the last five weeks. His efforts have given him personal ratings boost at home while sidelining his rivals in the campaign.
A Strong lead over rivals
The most recent voter surveys suggested that Macron gained between 5.0 and 6.0 points over the last month and could be on course to win the first round of the election with a score of around 30 percent. This, reports have said will be a significantly higher margin of victory than in 2017.
On average, the incumbent is polling more than 10% ahead of his closest challenger, veteran far-right leader, Marine Le Pen. She is trailed by three other candidates around 11-12 percent; conservative candidate, Valérie Pécresse, far-right former TV pundit, Eric Zemmour, and leftist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The top two candidates in the first round will progress to a run-off vote on April 2, 2022. Polls currently have suggested that Mr. Macron will triumph by a large margin, irrespective of his rival.
However, the head of state remains a highly divisive figure, owing to pro-business labour law reform and his abrasive personality, which led to violent anti-government demonstrations in 2018 by a group called Yellow Vest protesters.
A survey by the Odexa polling group, published by Le Figaro on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, suggested that one in four people might abstain in the first round of the election, which could be the second-highest rate since 1965.