This is it. After months of procrastination, Emmanuel Macron has finally announced his candidacy for the 2017 French presidential election. Unaffiliated with any mainstream party and no longer encumbered by any right-wing or left-wing labels, the young 38-year-old candidate has taken to the center stage in the same way he has conducted himself these past few months: seeking to bring about change. A former deputy general secretary to the French President François Hollande, and later a Minister of Economy in Manuel Valls’ government, he has had "an insider’s perspective into the emptiness of our political system." Now that he is free, the future is bright… the future is Macron.
It was with this self-assurance that in April 2016 he set up En Marche [Forwards, Ed.] – a movement meant to transcend party politics since, after all, it is France as a country that is at stake. Admittedly, the ambitious young leader has made great strides; En Marche has almost 100,000 members. In June 2016, 68% of the French population wanted him to replace Hollande as a presidential candidate. As for the media, they spent months on end depicting the young minister as a Brutus who had stabbed the president in the back. The little ditty of the ungrateful son who learnt everything under Hollande’s rule steadily became the soundtrack of French political life, with Macron eventually "killing the father" by resigning from his post as Minister of Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector on 30 August this year.
Although this episode of betrayal has somewhat been forgiven, Macron is far from giving up. He keeps making his appearance in newspapers, arm-in-arm with his wife Brigitte, beautifully depicting the rallies around France he has led to merge the two opposing political parties in France. Magazines and glossies adore him. With the face of a young and ideal son-in-law, he stands out from the political clique, and delivers speeches that are a breath of fresh air to the French political discourse. Newspaper columns even talk about the "Macron generation," as En Marche has supposedly managed to rally even the disenchanted youth to hop on board. Hundreds of front pages and thousands of articles have been printed, without one single official proposition put forth.
Everything seemed all set up for him to take his rightful place. But suddenly, the world changed. In the United States, Donald Trump has been elected president. In France, the centre-right primary has brought back into the public debate topics such as security and immigration which cause a lot of anxiety. These are serious, heavy issues which are difficult to jazz up on glossy paper. Suddenly Macron, with his tour coaches and good-family looks, no longer seems strong enough to fight this battle. Worse still, he finds himself on a forced march and, in the eyes of many, has become “a caravan of commonplaces in a desert of ideas.” A quick look on social media (which used to be much more tolerant) is enough to make one realize that the young idol, who once surfed the waves of the country’s future, has been brought back down to his “infamous” status as an investment banker; the shiny example of an elitist popular amongst trendy start-up owners.
Six months after the launch of his movement, the whole world has come to mistrust everything - politicians, institutions, surveys and conventional media - and seems to have come crashing down on Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy. It is up to the youngest of the presidential candidates to convince the electorate by finally launching a real manifesto, and proving that he is more than just a handsome head of hair blowin’ in the wind.