If there’s one thing that can be said about French President Emmanuel Macron is that he has mastered the art of political survival.
His presidency has been marked by a relentless succession of crises, and – from the Yellow Vests and the Pension reform protests, Pandemic Lockdowns, Racial Riots, unchecked mass migration and deteriorating quality of life – Macron has survived it all.
But perhaps this moment of his plagued second presidential mandate is the biggest challenge yet.
His abilities as an ‘escape artist’ will be tested to the max as he tries an impossibly delicate balancing act – scrambling to gain the conservative vote, while not losing his Globalist-Liberal clout.
Impossible, many will say – and it sure seems that way as he puts his show on the road.
He faces a world of criticism from across the political spectrum, accused of ‘poaching from the hard-right playbook’.
His sleight of hand is: first appointing Gabriel Attal, 34, the country’s youngest – and first openly gay – prime minister, a former socialist. While they looked at the shining object, Macron named a government that shifted heavily into conservative territory.
PM Attal has had a rocky start, with eight of the 14 new ministers from the centre-right opposition Les Républicains party, including the culture minister, Rachida Dati.
New education minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, is in the hot seat for having sent her three children to a private Catholic school in Paris.
So Macron held a press conference to sell his new plan, and show that his leadership hasn’t faded.
He spent more than two hours answering questions, promising ‘a stronger France to face the world’s challenges’.
Associated Press reported:
“’I still have three years and a half in office‘, he said, describing an ambition to both change the daily life of the French and tackle global crises.
[…] The 46-year-old centrist president promised ‘audacity, action, efficiency’ in the hopes of strengthening his legacy through a series of reforms, starting with an economic bill meant to boost growth and tax cuts for middle-class households.
He also detailed how he would preserve France’s struggling health system and accelerate changes at schools. He advocated for uniforms in public schools, learning the national anthem at a young age and expanding a two-week training period in high schools to promote French values and encourage youth to give back to the community.”
Behind his supposedly brand new agenda, he slipped his old, tired and rejected agenda, vowing to make France ‘stronger’ by deliver more long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine. Yeah, really.
(Missiles that can strike deep into Russia and escalate the war in ways we can’t anticipate.)
He also suggested that he’d ‘find ways to work with Donald Trump’ when he is reelected – he is covering all bases.
His hard shift right is of course a consequence of the soaring of the rightwing parties ahead of June’s European elections.
He denounced the National Rally as ‘the party of the lies’, while admitting the need to fight unemployment and control immigration.
“’Basically, the National Rally has become the party of easy anger’, he added. ‘Let’s not get used to it.[…] I realize that a lot of people were getting nervous about 2027. But I also realize that a lot can happen in three years and a half.”
Some of what he had to say mimics real conservative policies: he wants the French to produce more babies, will revamp the mandatory national service and will go back to mandating school uniforms.
The country, he said, has to ‘relearn to share values, a common culture and civility, in schools and in public’.
“The French president announced plans to crack down on children’s screen time; implement mandatory art history and drama classes, as well as graduation ceremonies in high schools; and expressed support for teaching the national anthem in elementary schools.
He also detailed the need to increase birth rates in order to “strengthen” France, pledging to reform the parental leave system and put in place measures to address low birth rates. In 2023, France’s fertility rate was an average of 1.68 children per woman, against 1.79 in 2022.”
Critics say the measures are only meant to appeal to conservative voters.
“Macron’s announcements also drew backlash from the left, with the leaders of the left-wing France Unbowed movement and French Greens describing the president’s speech as ‘reactionary’. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the European Green Party’s co-chair Mélanie Vogel asked for Macron’s ‘martial delusions’ to ‘stop at our wombs’ in response to his statements on birth rates.”