With French Election Looming, It Is Macron In opposition to the Proper

INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS With no credible left-wing candidate, a disgruntled populace, and a clear favorite who hasn’t yet announced his campaign, France is facing an unusual presidential election in just seven weeks, which could result in a high abstention rate.

Another method to keep his opponents guessing comes from 44-year-old President Emmanuel Macron. He has chosen to remain above the fray, delaying his announcement that he is working until near the March 4 deadline for action.

He has sat back and watched as the two extremes of right and left have ripped each other apart from his position as a centrist. Other issues, such as local climate change and France’s mounting debt from the coronavirus disaster, have been overshadowed by concerns about immigration and safety in recent months.

Far-right candidate Éric Zemmour claims that naming a child “Mohammed” is “colonizing France,” and he has capitalized on his notoriety as a TV analyst to spread anti-immigration sentiments.

In his telling, he is the only one who stands between French civilization and the conquering of Islam by Islam and “woke” American political correctness. Mr. Zemmour, like former President Donald J. Trump, with whom he spoke last week, uses fixed provocation to remain on the high of knowledge.

Polls show that Mr. Macron has a clear lead in the first round of voting on April 10, which gives him around a 25 percent chance of victory. Between 12 and 18 percent of the vote is split between Mr. Zemmour and two other right-wing contenders. For the first time since the foundation of the Fifth Republic in 1958, splintered left-wing events are trailing and appear to be digital spectators for the time being.

France is usually conservative, but this time it has veered off course. According to political thinker Pascal Bruckner, “the left lost their preferred courses, a lot of whom fled to the far right since it had no answer on immigration and Islam,” he explained. “So it’s the chameleon, Macron, in the best interest of the country.”

Mr. Macron is looking stronger than he has in a while, thanks to the popular belief that he has contained the coronavirus pandemic and guided the economic system through its difficulties. In the final quarter, the economy rose by 7%. France has a low unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. The relaxation of Covid-19 measures before the election, as well as the requirement of face masks in many public places, appears to be likely, a powerful symbolic step.

When it comes to criticizing Mr. Macron, it is telling that he looks to embody what is left of France’s Socialist Party, which is currently on life support, and principles adopted by the best, such as his strong fight against “Islamist separatists.”

Bruno Le Maire, the minister of economic affairs, described him as “supple.” One of Mr. Macron’s most ardent critics is his predecessor, François Hollande, a Socialist who feels betrayed by the current administration’s move to the right: As if hopping on water lilies, he jumps from one belief to the next.

Two of the leading candidates from the first round face a rematch on April 24. A furious right-on-right fight for second place in the election has now turned into a runoff against Mr. Macron.

Defections from Marine Le Pen’s celebration to Mr. Zemmour’s have surged as the anti-immigration contender has become his sharpest critic. She has claimed that some of his fans are “Nazis” and that he is trying to kill her National Rally party, which was originally known as the National Entrance.

She has been mocked by Mr. Zemmour, a self-proclaimed fanatic who believes that Islam is “incompatible” with France. A racist conspiracy theory that white Christian communities are being systematically transformed by nonwhite immigrants, resulting in what Mr. Zemmour calls the “Creolization” of countries, has slammed her for not adopting the “pleasant alternative.”

Even if Mr. Zemmour, a descendant of an Algerian Jewish household, had overcome many of the taboos that had prevented conservative French people from adopting the laborious proper, the president might be confident of his chances against both Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Zemmour.

Despite France’s economic woes and the two-year battle against the pandemic, a blow-up-the-system choice, like the vote for Mr. Trump in the United States or Britain’s decision to leave the EU, maybe a surprise.

As a former Macron supporter, Paulette Brémond said she was torn between the president and Zemmour. She said, “The issue of immigration is critical.” “I’m eager to hear what Mr. Macron has to say about it. When he sounds efficient, I could vote for him once more.”

“The marketing campaign feels like it hasn’t begun” until Mr. Macron declares his candidacy, which is a typical sentiment in a country where for now the political jostling may feel like shadow boxing.

The president, who has depicted himself as being forced to focus on excessive matters of state, is unlikely to consider this a top priority. These include his ability to broker peace in Ukraine through his connection with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, as well as resolving France’s problematic anti-terrorist mission in Mali with the help of allies.

However, even though Mr. Macron’s efforts in Mali look to have been a complete failure, the Ukraine crisis allows him to appear to be Europe’s de facto leader in the pursuit of constructive engagement with Russia. Some 30% of voters, including Mr. Zemmour and Mme Le Pen, have made it clear how much they admire Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past year or so.

Anonymously, a member of Mr. Macron’s re-election team said the possibility of a runoff against the center-right Republican, Valérie Pécresse, was more important than dealing with either Ms. Le Pen or Mr. Zemmour in the second phase, according to an official notice.

In the second round, Ms. Pécresse, a two-term president of France’s most populated region and a centrist by inclination, might appeal to center-left and left-wing voters who view Mr. Macron as an enemy of France.

Explore France’s Presidential Election in further depth

Beginning of the marketing campaign To begin electing a president, French citizens will go to the polls in April. Take a look at the following list of contenders:

A contender from the center-right. A recent candidacy for Valérie Pécresse, the current mayor of Paris, was based on her use of a lexicon with racist and colonial connotations. She now has to deal with the difficult task of growing her support network.

A veteran of the far-right. With her harsh speech in the past, Marine Le Pen is now looking for a way to clean up her image. In 2012, she finished third, and in the 2017 runoff, she was defeated by Mr. Macron.

Ms. Pécresse, though, appears to have suffered a major setback in her chances after a terrible performance in her first major campaign address in Paris this month. Her support dropped from 19 percent in December to 12 percent in this week’s election.

In her campaign address, Ms. Pécresse used the phrase “the great alternative” to refer to France’s recent spate of Islamist terrorism, which has been the worst in Europe in the last seven years.

After an outcry over her usage of “witchcraft trials” in a television appearance on Thursday, she said, “Cease the witchcraft trials!” in response. As a result of “voting for Le Pen or Zemour means eventually voting for Macron,” “I cannot resign myself to a Macron-Zemmour duel.”

Macron has had two terms as president. The first pushed for a rethinking of the state-centric French model by modifying the complex labor code to make it easier to hire and fire; reducing the tax on large fortunes, and other measures to attract foreign investment and liberate the economy.

A backlash against rising inequality and globalizing financiers — of which Macron was once one — who are perceived as insensitive to widespread social hardships arose in the form of the Yellow Vest Movement.

As soon as the noise died down, the coronavirus struck, transforming the president from a proponent of free-market reform into an advocate of government involvement.

In 2020, Mr. Macron stated, “We have socialized salaries,” without blinking an eye.

All of this has a price, and that price may be high in the future. However, for the time being, the “on the same time” president, as Mr. Macron has come to be known, looks to be basking in the pandemic’s subdued light.

According to a member of his marketing campaign team, “he got lucky.” “Covid protected him from implementing other unpopular changes.”

If nothing else, Mr. Macron’s strategy of keeping his distance from the fray is working so far—whether it’s an EU war, a new strain of the virus, or another major terrorist attack—and it appears to be paying off.

Without a catastrophe, Mr. Bruckner predicted that Mr. Macon would be re-elected. Once again, true campaigning will begin only when the incumbent finally enters the tumultuous area of the campaign.

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