Emmanuel Macron, the “outsider” politician who revolutionized French politics and stopped the far-right twice

Emmanuel Macron France
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Weeks before winning re-election in the second round of the electoral contest, Emmanuel Macron was involved in a heated argument with a dental assistant.

In fact, the only one who was screaming was her, says the BBC’s correspondent in Paris, Lucy Williamson.

But this exchange of words in the former mining town of Denain reveals the trait that propelled Macron to the presidency five years ago and to re-election this Sunday. A trait that on the other hand, too, has made him win over many opponents.

Elodie, the dental assistant, was furious. She loudly criticized her “insulting” language when describing those who had not been vaccinated against covid-19.

Macron, who won the second round of the elections this Sunday with 58% of the vote, told him that he had taken his words badly. Elodie then complained about taxes and price increases.

He replied that he had lowered the rates and that she was not being fair.

“Did you lower rates?” replied the incredulous woman. Have you been to the gas station? How much do you earn per month?

“I don’t control the global market,” Macron replied. “We just won’t agree,” Elodie concluded.

“But it is important that I explain it,” Macron told him.

The French president has always believed that he has the answer to all the country’s problems. And that, if only he could explain his thoughts to the rest, they would also see it that way.

That self-confidence has made him give long speeches, take a tough stance on protesters and project an image — to some — that he just doesn’t listen.

This, however, has not prevented him from winning a second term, something quite unusual in French politics.

In fact, the only presidents who have been directly re-elected in the country were François Mitterand in 1988, and Jacques Chirac in 2002.

From banker to a politician

Born to medical parents on December 21, 1977 in Amiens, in the north of the country, Macron had a brilliant education that allowed him to graduate from the prestigious Sciences Po institute.

He continued his studies at the ENA, a school of public administration that the left-wing politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement has described as the “institute of the French bourgeoisie and oligarchy”.

After graduating in 2005, Macron began his professional career at the French Inspectorate General for Finance.

Three years later his career took a turn when he was hired by the Rothschild bank, of which he became deputy director in just two years.

During his time at Rothschild, Macron was in charge of a large agreement between the transnationals Nestlé and Pfizer for some US$9.7 million, which left him a juicy and millionaire commission.

In 2012 he held the position of Deputy Secretary-General of the presidency of François Hollande and in 2014 he became  Minister of Economy and Finance.

In April 2016, without having yet left his government portfolio, he launched the movement En Marche! (On the go!) with a public act in Amiens.

And six months after the creation of En Marche!, the former minister announced his candidacy,

At that time, he assured us that his intention was to overcome the traditional differences between the left and the right.

overwhelming confidence

Even before coming to power, Macron “radiated a kind of almost religious determination about his project for France. How else could a 39-year-old man running his first election campaign ever become president?” Williamson asks.

Alain Minc, an influential political adviser and mentor to Macron in his early days, tells the story of his meeting with the French president in the early 2000s.

SOURCE: AFP
MACRON WAS DISMISSED IN 2017 DUE TO HIS LACK OF EXPERIENCE.

“He came to see me when I was a young finance inspector, and I asked him: ‘How do you see yourself in 20 years?’  Macron replied: ‘I will be president.’ I froze.”

When Macron launched his political movement, without the backing of any party or established structure, many people initially dismissed him for his lack of experience.

They thought it was a “champagne bubble that would dissolve before Election Day.”

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Marriage

The blind trust in his own vision that Macron brought to politics is also something that is reflected in his personal life.

His wife, Brigitte Trogneux, was formerly his theater teacher. When they met, she, 24 years older than him, was married with 3 children.

SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES
MACRON’S MARRIAGE TO HIS FORMER DRAMA TEACHER, BRIGITTE TROGNEUX, WAS NOT PUBLICIZED UNTIL HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT.

By the time Macron left his school, aged 16, he had promised to marry her.

“We called each other all the time and spent hours on the phone,” Trogneux said in a documentary. “Little by little he overcame my resistance, in an incredible way, with patience.”

They got married in 2007.

It’s an unusual love story, and one of Macron’s biographers, Anne Fulda, says they both chose not to publicize their relationship until he ran for office.

The BBC’s Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson recalls that, in 2017, Fulda told her that Macron at the time wanted to give the idea that “if he could seduce a woman 24 years older than him in a small provincial town, despite prejudices, despite the people’s gaze and ridicule, he could, in the same way, conquer France“.

First presidential administration

In his first term, Macron created jobs, spent billions of dollars to support workers and businesses during the pandemic and, in the last six months, subsidized oil and gas prices.

But his core belief is that economic reform – to free up business and demand more from workers – is the way to alleviate poverty and fund the kind of social policies that are important to left-wing voters.

SOURCE: AFP
MACRON HAS IN THE PAST ANGERED MANY OF THOSE WHO HAD VOTED FOR HIM BY, IN HIS OPINION, FAVORING THE RICH.

Rather than narrowing the gap between the old classes and political divisions, this approach has opened them up further.

And some key decisions (such as the one to drastically reduce the wealth tax for the wealthiest) taken shortly after taking office in his first presidency, have become emblems of his supposed “betrayal” of the working class and have won him the nickname “president of the rich“.

idealized past

It is an accusation that does not fit with the story that Macron likes to tell about himself.

“I was born in a provincial town, in a family that had nothing to do with the world of journalists, politicians or bankers,” he responded years ago to a journalist who questioned his appeal to the working classes.

In his autobiography, Macron recounts that his grandparents were a teacher, a railway worker, a social worker and a civil engineer.

He says that his maternal grandmother, the teacher Manette, was particularly important to him, as she introduced him to the world of literature and culture and taught him to think.

But it also gave her something else: Manette’s mother had been illiterate, and the story of much more romantic than that of the son of a neurologist who went to private school and ran for president after a stint at an investment bank.

Even so, the truth is that Emmanuel Macron’s family history is one of overcoming social divisions, something that he would later try in politics.