French elections 2017: Who is Emmanuel Macron?

Incoming president faces challenges from reforming the economy to winning the trust of voters who shunned the election.

Few could have asked for a better start to a political career than France‘s new President Emmanuel Macron.

A graduate of elite National School of Administration, which boasts three French presidents among its alumni, Macron worked as a financial inspector at the economy ministry after graduating 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 of 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 of the election of Trump in the United States and Brexit in the UK.

His policies are the status quo, with a nod to the progressive currents 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.

Sober brand of politics

In February, he condemned France’s colonial legacy in Algeria as a “crime against humanity”, earning rebukes 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.

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However, his challenge remains in energising an increasingly apathetic electorate, for whom his centrist platform offers little else except an alternative to Le Pen.

As an economic liberal, he has fiscal policies that differ little from the economic consensus 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.

Source: Al Jazeera