Macron to unveil manifesto, shifting from war to re-election bid
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is riding high in the polls, is to reveal his manifesto on Thursday at his first major campaign event for the election next month.
The 44-year-old delayed declaring his bid for a second term until the last possible moment and is now under pressure to engage with voters and rivals ahead of the poll on April 10.
Thursday’s event, which will include a lengthy press conference, is “an important exercise to show that he is addressing the questions and criticism of him, and that he’s therefore really entering the campaign”, a minister told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Rivals across the political spectrum, who have struggled to make an impact in recent weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have been calling on Macron to declare his candidacy since the turn of the year.
“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,” the head of the Senate, Gerard Larcher, complained on Tuesday.
“If there isn’t a campaign, then there will be questions about the legitimacy of the winner,” Larcher, from the opposition Republicans party, told Le Figaro newspaper.
Macron has taken a leading role in Western diplomatic outreach to stop the war in Ukraine, holding around 20 hours of talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the last five weeks.
His efforts have given him a personal ratings boost at home, where most voters appear to approve.
If, next month, he becomes the first French president in 20 years to be re-elected, the former investment banker is expected to focus on deepening his pro-business domestic reforms and accelerating his push for a more powerful European Union.
Proposals that have already been unveiled or leaked to the media include raising the retirement age from 62 to 65, lowering death taxes, and huge public investments in green energy and new technologies.
Aides are also promising a “big shake up” of the education system among the 100 measures the head of state is set to announce on Thursday.
Macron has brushed aside criticism that he has neglected the presidential election.
“Election campaigns when a president is running for re-election are always a bit unusual. That’s normal,” Macron said on Tuesday as he visited a centre for Ukrainian refugees outside Paris.
The most recent voter surveys suggest he has 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, a higher margin of victory than in 2017.
Veteran far-right leader Marine Le Pen is running in second place, on around 18 percent, a poll of polls by the Politico website suggests.
She is trailed by three candidates on around 11-12 percent — right-wing challenger Valerie Pecresse, far-right former TV pundit Eric Zemmour and hard-left campaigner Jean-Luc Melenchon, who appears to be gaining momentum.
The top two candidates in the first round will progress to a run-off vote on April 24. Polls currently suggest Macron would triumph by a large margin, irrespective of his rival.
Behind the scenes, the president is reported to be urging ministers and campaign workers to guard against premature optimism — to limited effect.
“Macron is winning by default. It’s the others who are useless,” one senior supporter told AFP this week, likening the incumbent’s opponents to “dwarves”.
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 so-called Yellow Vest protesters.
A survey by the Odexa polling group, published by Le Figaro on Wednesday, suggested one in four people might abstain in the first round of the election, the second-highest rate since 1965.