Presidential front runner draws praise for avoiding anti-Islam rhetoric but doubts persist over his centrist platform.
Few could have asked for a better start to a political career than the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
The current front-runner is a graduate of elite National School of Administration, which produces the country’s top civil servants and counts among its alumni, three French presidents.
Macron will be hoping to make it number four in May, and as things stand he looks best positioned to fend off the far-right candidacy of Marine Le Pen, who he is predicted to beat easily in a second round run-off, if the polls are correct.
After graduating Macron worked as a financial inspector at the Ministry of Economy before joining Rothschild & Cie bank as an investment banker.
Politically, he was a member of the Socialist Party for three years, before becoming an independent politician in 2009.
The 39-year-old’s first roles came under Francois Hollande as a member of his personal staff and later as a minister for economy, industry, and digital affairs under the government of Manuel Valls.
As the western world turns increasingly to the far-right, Macron is unabashedly centrist in his outlook, appealing to French citizens who are familiar with the chaotic aftermath the election of Trump in the United States and Brexit in the UK caused.
His policies are the status-quo with a nod to the progressive currents that are emerging in the US and Britain.
Unlike several of his opponents on the left and right, Macron has avoided making pronouncements against Muslim dress codes and is a fierce defender of an open immigration system.
In February, he condemned France’s colonial legacy in Algeria as a “crime against humanity”, earning rebuke from many on the right.
Nevertheless Macron stood firm, apologising only for the offence caused and not for the actual comment itself.
His sober brand of politics, youthful looks, and the implosion of competitor Francois Fillon’s campaign, have seen him rise to about 27 percent in the polls; enough to secure him a place in the second round.
However, his challenge remains in energising an increasingly apathetic electorate, for whom his centrist platform offers little else but an alternative to Le Pen.
As an economic liberal, his fiscal policies differ little from the economic consensus that has been built in the decade since the global crash that started in 2007.
On the European Union, Macron is also an unashamed supporter, a standpoint likely to cost him votes on both the Eurosceptic left and right.
If Macron can convince the large apathetic segment of the population that he offers more than just not being Le Pen, there would be little standing in his way to taking up residence in the Elysee Palace.