French election: What does Emmanuel Macron stand for?

The centrist’s pledge to cut state spending has earned him the distrust of many on the French left.

Macron World War Two memorial
Macron succeeds President Francois Hollande, whom he served under as Economy Minister [Francois Mori/Reuters]

Emmanuel Macron’s victory against Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election has been greeted with relief across the country and abroad, but for many French citizens the choice was one made through gritted teeth.

Data released by the polling company Ipsos shows 43 percent of French citizens voted for Macron out of opposition to his far-right rival and just 24 percent did so because they support his policies or personality.

Many of the voters Al Jazeera spoke to on the streets of France, especially younger voters, said they opposed his economic reforms, which they described as “neo-liberal”.

In the run-up to the vote and in its aftermath media outlets have described him varyingly as liberal, centrist, progressive, and even centre-left.

So what does that mean in terms of actual policies, and why do many on the left oppose his platform?

FRENCH ELECTIONS 2017: Who is Emmanuel Macron?

The man Macron replaces as president, Francois Hollande, decided not to stand for re-election because of poor poll ratings, brought on by unpopular austerity policies his government introduced.

As one of Hollande’s key advisers and later his minister for economy, Macron was an integral figure in formulating many of the policy proposals and laws that cost the current president the support of his base.

British newspaper the Financial Times credits his rapid accession to a ministerial role under Hollande to his willingness to attack “leftwing taboos such as France’s 35-hour working week and the wealth tax”.

Macron is in favour of labour reforms that would bring French economic culture in line with those in English-speaking Western countries, such as the US and the UK.

Unlike his rival Marine Le Pen, Macron is an ardent supporter of the EU [Lionel Bonaventure/Reuters]Unlike his rival Marine Le Pen, Macron is an ardent supporter of the EU [Lionel Bonaventure/Reuters]

That means reducing the red tape and bureaucracy involved in operating businesses and countering the influence of the country’s powerful trade unions.

Corporation tax would also be cut from the current 33 percent to 25.

The president-elect has promised a huge slimming down of the state budget, pledging to cut more than $65bn of total spending within his term.

READ MORE: Emmanuel Macron’s win welcomed by European leaders

A reduction of that scale equals around 120,000 public sector job losses, but Macron does not intend to wield an axe alone.

His cuts come coupled with more than $54bn in a stimulus package which would be spent on training schemes to tackle youth unemployment. At least $16bn of that package would be used to encourage green initiatives.

Economic policy is just one area where Macron would try to force through change.

Other policies

Macron is a strong supporter of the EU but wants it to implement reforms that would make it more accountable to members of the European parliament.

The former banker wants oversight of the euro currency, which France uses, to be overseen by a specialist eurozone minister, who would answer to elected officials.

On immigration and asylum, Macron supports German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis and wants France to take in its fair share of refugees.

His platform also emphasises the need to integrate those moving into the country, and his proposals include state-funded language classes for new arrivals.

France has suffered a number of attacks by supporters of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda. To counter the threat the president-elect wants to recruit 10,000 more police officers. 

Supporters of Emmanuel Macron celebrate near the Louvre museum after results were announced on Sunday [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]Supporters of Emmanuel Macron celebrate near the Louvre museum after results were announced on Sunday [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

Macron has proposed the creation of de-radicalisation centres to hold returning ISIL fighters, in an attempt to rehabilitate some of those willing to re-integrate into society.

His proposals also include shutting down places of worship that espouse “jihadist” ideology.

ISIL attacks have led to further deterioration of relations between the French state and the country’s Muslim community, which Macron sets out to address in his manifesto.

The president-elect would like to see fewer imams trained abroad, and instead would push for more Muslim religious leaders to be trained and educated in France.

Macron supports the display of religious clothing in public places, but also supports allowing private companies to make their own rules with regard to religious dress.

Can he force through change?

A large part of whether Macron can fulfill his vision depends on the support of legislative elections for the National Assembly, due to take place next month.

His En Marche! movement is expected to do well in the vote, but Ipsos puts the number of French citizens who do not want Macron to win a majority at 61 percent.

Support from the assembly will be critical in ensuring Macron can implement his policies and that his tenure does not start with political deadlock.

Macron won the vote with 66 percent of the total ballots cast [Eric Feferberg/AFP]Macron won the vote with 66 percent of the total ballots cast [Eric Feferberg/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera