France’s youngest ever president has won a series of European battles during the past year, but that’s unlikely to resonate with his voters at the next election, an analyst told CNBC.
Emmanuel Macron got elected in 2017 on a pro-European platform, defeating the then called National Front – an anti-immigration and anti-European party led by Marine Le Pen. Macron has voiced his view of a more integrated European Union from the moment he took office and has managed to drive the European rhetoric in key moments, such as the during the Brexit negotiations.
Macron played a determinant role in the appointment of senior roles at the EU level over the summer – including the next head of the European Central Bank, the former French minister Christine Lagarde; the next president of the European Commission, the pro-European Ursula von der Leyen; and the next chief of the European Council, the liberal Belgian leader and his close-ally Charles Michel.
There was also the appointment of the next managing director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Kristalina Georgieva. France successfully gathered support for its favorite candidate, even though that meant changing the IMF’s by-laws.
On the Brexit front, Macron pushed for a shorter extension when the former prime U.K. Minister, Theresa May, arrived in Brussels in April asking for more time to take her country out of the EU. At the time a Brussels-based official told CNBC that Macron “didn’t make any friends” – but he managed to shrink the proposal from the European Council for a one-year delay to six months.
Andrew Bishop, a partner at Signum Global Advisors, told CNBC the recent victories represented a “hot streak” but was uncertain that Macron would win more votes in France.
“I don’t think his foreign policy gambits will help him boost his domestic standing,” Bishop from Signum Global said.
“As in most countries, most voters don’t care much about international politics; the focus is really on (Macron’s) controversial economic reform agenda; and the few voters who admire his ‘statesman’ approach to foreign policy are those already most likely to side with him,” he said
Jeremy Ghez, an affiliate professor at the H.E.C. University in Paris, told CNBC Thursday over the phone that European victories could give French citizens “a better perspective” and that “The fear of social demotion won’t be so big if Macron succeeds at the European level.”
Ghez added that in France, “everyone cares about their purchasing power” – whether this is actual financial means or more of an idea of a higher status.
Macron’s plans for the domestic economy have received fierce opposition. Last year, plans to implement fuel taxes led to months of violent protests across the country. The so-called Yellow Vest movement demanded his resignation. To stop the backlash, Macron promised a few measures aimed at increasing people’s available income.
The latest opinion polls show that Macron’s popularity has grown slowly over the last year and when compared with other party leaders in France, Le Pen is the only one that comes close to Macron. Macron “is a bit of a paradox in France,” Ghez said, but “he is the only credible leader right now.”
However, the French President has more tough reforms to implement, including on the pension sector. The latter has already led to a few more protests from the Yellow Vests.