Macron launches re-election bid to protect French from ‘world’s disorders’

French President Macron gives a televised speech on the Russian invasion of Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron appears on a screen as he delivers a speech on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Paris, France, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

March 3, 2022

By Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he would run for a second term in April’s elections, seeking a mandate to steer the euro zone’s second-largest economy through the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron announced his bid in a letter published by several regional newspapers.

If he succeeds, he would be the first French leader for two decades to win a second term in office.

“We have not achieved everything we set out to do. There are choices that, with the experience I have gained from you, I would probably make differently,” Macron said in the letter, listing the different crises he had to face over the past five years, including militant attacks, COVID, riots and war.

He defended his record, pointing to unemployment at a 15-year low. “I am running to defend our values that the world’s disorders are threatening,” he added.

Without giving a detailed manifesto, Macron said he would continue to cut taxes and push for the French to work more, suggesting a return of an abandoned pension reform. He also hinted at a reform of the education system, saying teachers should be freer and paid better.

Macron enters the presidential race just a month or so before the election’s first round on April 10. Opinion polls project that he is favourite to win a contest that sees multiple challengers on the right and left fragmenting the vote.

The Ukraine war has already upended the campaign, complicating Macron’s entry into the race and leaving two far-right contenders who had so far performed strongly in polls to justify their hitherto pro-Russia, pro-Putin stance.

With Macron at the forefront of European efforts to secure a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the conflict, a campaign with fewer rallies by the incumbent and an unusual focus on foreign policy lies ahead.

Macron, who has spoken on the phone with Putin 11 times this year, has said he would continue as the war rages on and acknowledged in the letter he will not be able to campaign as he would have liked because of the war.

That may not hurt his chances. Voter surveys have shown a bounce in support for Macron as far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour revise their views on relations with Moscow and amid an outpouring of sympathy for Ukrainian refugees.

Macron became France’s youngest leader since Napoleon five years ago, pitching himself as a political outsider who would break the old left-right dichotomy, make France more investor-friendly and make the EU stronger.

He cut taxes for big business and the wealthy, loosened labour laws and marketed France Inc. as a start-up nation, but anti-government ‘yellow vest’ protests and then the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to slow his reform plans.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Richard Lough, Ingrid Melander and Andrew Heavens)

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