Is Macron the New Merkel?

foreignpolicy.com
7 min read
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The French president has charted a new kind of centrism in Europe.
Is Macron the New Merkel?

In politics, there is one simple law: If you win an election, you get power. If you win reelection, you get others—at home and abroad—imitating you.

Early next year, French President Emmanuel Macron and his self-proclaimed "neither left nor right" politics face this make-or-break test. If he fails, Macron will turn out to be a short-lived shooting star. (What's more, he will likely have paved the way for the first power grab by right-wing nationalists in one of the European Union's core countries.) If Macron wins, France will finally have found a policy mix and a president it can live with for more than the short term, and the EU will have found a poster child that demonstrates betting on Europe can actually win you political success.

Macron's odds are not bad. In fact, out of all the past decade's incumbent French leaders, 43-year-old Macron has the best chances of winning a second five-year mandate. Eleven months before the elections, Macron's approval ratings stand at 50 percent. For the hard-to-please French, this is remarkable. At the same point, socialist former French President François Hollande stood at 21 percent. Right-wing former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who narrowly missed reelection in 2012, garnered 35 percent.

Moreover, despite his presidency being fraught with social conflict, such as large-scale strikes against his breakneck economic reforms and the 2018 Yellow Vest movement, Macron is much less hated than his predecessors. A year before elections, only 53 percent of the French have a "bad impression" of Macron—and only 25 percent of that have a "very bad" impression. This compares to 68 percent for Sarkozy (35 percent of that being "very bad") and 80 percent for Hollande (40 percent being "very bad") a year before the end of their respective terms.

Yet, Macron's main rival, far-right Marine Le Pen, is steadily climbing the greasy pole of electoral politics. Le Pen is trying to reposition herself as a…
Joseph de Weck
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