Paris (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron has yet to say he will run for a second term in next year’s elections, but his intentions are clear and his unofficial campaign is on fire.
After a rare two-hour press conference last week to outline his European ambitions, the 43-year-old head of state is due to sit down Wednesday evening for a long prime-time television interview on domestic politics.
For a ruler who has always kept the media at bay and who once theorized his role as acting like Jupiter, the Roman god of the sky, the sudden explosion of transparency did not go unnoticed.
Neither had a series of visits to small towns and rural France where they wandered picturesque cobblestone streets, stopping to chat with traders or drinking wine in local cafes. .
When a reporter asked him again last week if he would run again, he used humor first, saying the question was “a sign of affection, a hidden desire, almost a call.”
“In the time we are living in, the most important thing is that our institutions continue to function in the most stable way possible”, he continued, evading the question.
Like his predecessors including François Mitterrand and Nicolas Sarkozy, Macron seems to want to save time, by using the presidential megaphone and the advantages of his function until the latest.
France’s role in the rotating presidency of the European Union from January 1, which will see Macron setting the official EU agenda, is also another factor favoring a late declaration.
“Emmanuel Macron is President of the Republic, elected for five years, not four and a half,” one of Macron’s closest allies, ruling party MP Christophe Castaner, told France 2 television on Tuesday.
“That the president thinks is normal, that he sees things is normal, but in the meantime he is president of the republic”, he added.
For government spokesman Gabriel Attal, “not campaigning is more of a disadvantage than an advantage for us because the reality is that it gives us fewer opportunities to respond to criticism.”
– Complaints –
While a late statement has always been in Macron’s plans, according to his aides, the mood of the electorate and the dynamics of his challengers could change his calculations as well.
For the first time, a poll conducted last week by the Elabe investigative group showed that the former investment banker lost on April 24 in the second round of the elections to right-wing Valérie Pécresse of the Les Républicains party.
Pecresse, the combative at the head of the Paris region and former minister of Sarkozy, has experienced a huge rebound in the polls since the inauguration of his party on December 4.
She drew criticism on Wednesday night’s television interview on TF1 and complains of an uneven playing field.
“We cannot have a president-candidate who has TV channels open for him when he wants and who campaigns for hours, while his opponents have five minutes in a panel to answer him,” he said. she said Monday.
She promised to file a complaint with the French media regulator, the CSA, which monitors the time given to presidential candidates to ensure that each of them receives fair billing.
As the electoral campaign evolves in Pecresse’s favor, she has become the prime target of Macron’s allies, who have repeated different lines of attack.
Some have described her as chic and out of touch, or engaged in an unrealistic program of public sector cuts.
The danger posed to Macron by Eric Zemmour, a far-right expert, seems to have faded after his dramatic entry into French politics in September.
Veteran far-right leader Marine Le Pen also risks being sidelined from the race if the Republican candidate manages to maintain her momentum.
Some in the Pecresse camp believe the timing of Macron’s interview was deliberately chosen to conflict with his scheduled appearance on another TV channel, which has now been canceled.
“Valérie Pecresse has become an obsession for Emmanuel Macron, to the point of even dictating when he plans his appearances,” a Pecresse employee told AFP this week on condition of anonymity.
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