While Emmanuel Macron appears well on his way to being re-elected as president of France, it is appropriate first to draw a balance sheet of his actions as president. For five years, his term has been marked by political scandals that all had the same origin: the desire of this president, with his background in investment banking, to make the state work like a start-up -- that is to say, to make the state work without the state's services. (Photo by Lionel Bonaventure /AFP via Getty Images)
Marine Le Pen and the incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron will face each other in the second round of the French presidential election on April 24. The results of yesterday's first round, with 97% of the votes tallied, show Macron coming out ahead with 27.6% of the vote, followed by Le Pen at 23.4%.
The result is a kind of surprise. Four months ago, the journalist Éric Zemmour made a lightning breakthrough in the polls by forcing all his opponents to take up his favorite theme: the fight against mass immigration. Zemmour even appeared to be in a position to supplant Le Pen and to compete with Macron in the second round of presidential elections.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, upset all forecasts. When Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, Zemmour, apparently taken aback, was slow to condemn the Russian assault. The media then recalled that in 2013, Zemmour had named Putin "man of the year" and that the same Zemmour had dreamed in 2018 of a "French Putin" for France. Regarding Ukrainian refugees, Zemmour estimated that they would be better off in Poland than in France, a sentiment that was widely viewed as lacking in compassion. As the Christian Science Monitor wrote, "Europe's far-right parties admired Putin. Now they're stranded."
The war in Ukraine has led to another drawback: inflation. Increased prices for energy and food product have made purchasing power a major campaign theme, overshadowing the issue of Muslim immigration, which, until March, was at the heart of the debate.
While Macron appears well on his way to being re-elected, it is appropriate first to draw a balance sheet of his actions as president. For five years, his term has been marked by political scandals that all had the same origin: the desire of this president, with his background in investment banking, to make the state work like a start-up -- that is to say, to make the state work without the state's services.
For five years, Macron has tried, at the expense of the taxpayer, to build a parallel system that marginalizes intermediary bodies such as parliament, the mayors and the regions. In the name of "efficiency", Macron has tried to create a private militia that works around the security organization of the presidency of the Republic (the Benalla Affair); also in the name of efficiency, he has asked consulting firms (such as McKinsey; Boston Consulting Group, Accenture), in place of the large state institutions and ministries, to formulate polices on the environment, health, security, labor and retirement.
The Covid-19 crisis was the height of this functioning of the "State without the State". Although France is one of the most organized countries in terms of healthcare, Macron chose to manage the pandemic directly with the firm of McKinsey. "[T]o manage this crisis (of covid), the political power, notably because of a lack of confidence in the institutions of the Republic, preferred to ignore the existing mechanisms and competences and entrust strategic missions to consulting firms," explains François Alla, a professor of public health and deputy director of the Institute of Public Health, Epidemiology and Development.
Barbara Stiegler, an associate professor of political philosophy and the director of the Soin, éthique et santé ("Care, Ethics, and Health") master's program at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne, also said:
"[T]his recourse to consulting betrays the deep mistrust of these new leaders, who come from the world of business and enterprise, towards the State and academic knowledge. By locking himself up in his Defense Council, Macron has chosen to decide, both without the state and without researchers, all the major orientations of the health crisis.
Macron's distrust of the state also seems coupled with a distrust of the French people. Macron is a man who has regularly insulted the French. Before becoming president, while he was still Minister of the Economy, Macron called female workers at the Gad slaughterhouse in Finistère "illiterate." Additionally:
- In Lunel, on May 27, 2016, in the Hérault district, he insulted two striking workers, saying, "The best way to afford a suit is to work."
- In Hénin Beaumont (North), in 2017, he looked down on the working class people, saying, "in this mining basin (...) there is a lot of smoking and alcoholism."
- In 2017, in Athens, Greece, Macron judged that "France is not a country that reforms itself."
- In Denmark, he criticized the French, these "Gauls refractory to change..."
Distrust and contempt sparked the Gilets Jaunes ("Yellow Vests") protest movement in 2019, when an increase in fuel prices provoked months of demonstrations by France's working class -- those whom globalization has relegated to the outskirts of large cities and who need their cars to go to work. This protest movement, despised and misunderstood, was repressed by the police with extreme violence.
Macron did not, however, despise everyone. He has given the greatest consideration to Islam and Muslim immigration. During his five-year term, immigration from Africa, North Africa and Asia was not considered a danger, but an "opportunity" for France. Seine-Saint-Denis, the closest district to Paris and probably also the most Islamized in France, is not perceived by Macron as a nerve center for arms and drug trafficking. Macron "has compared Seine-Saint-Denis to Silicon Valley." During Macron's five-year term, two million more Muslim migrants have settled in France, and the country has experienced a permanent debate about Islam and veiled women.
During this same five-year period, insecurity has affected all strata of the country: in France, an assault occurs every 44 seconds and the police are confronted with a refusal to comply every 30 minutes. In France, the political left and the media are waging war on the police, while in the suburbs police patrols are violently attacked on a daily basis.
According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, assaults on police officers increased by 40% between 2009 and 2019, from 26,721 to 37,431. In 2020, Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin told the public that "more than 20 assaults per day of police officers" were recorded in France.
Under Macron, the national debt has increased from 100% of GDP to 113% of GDP.
Despite this catastrophic record, it is likely that Macron will be re-elected on April 24. By whom? Who are his voters? First of all, let us specify that one out of four voters did not even vote. Yet it is precisely Le Pen's electorate who are suffering from this situation: namely, young people and the working classes. "Age and 'social' isolation actually feed abstention very significantly. Clearly, the social categories that benefit little from the current economic and social system -- the poorest, the least educated -- abstain," according to polling specialist Paul Cebille.
Finally, Macron's voters are mainly retired people, executives, and inhabitants of big cities. Executives benefit from globalization, and the elderly and retired people do not like what appears to a revolution; they are afraid of the radical changes proposed by candidates such as Zemmour or Le Pen. So "it turns out that (the retired) seem to follow... the French as a whole, who intend... to vote as a majority for Macron."
The elderly are not the majority, but they vote.
Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.