terça-feira, 30 de agosto de 2016

France’s summer stars face a tough fall / Emmanuel Macron to resign from French government: source

Emmanuel Macron to resign from French government: source

Economy minister is preparing a presidential bid.

Pierre Briançon and Nicholas Vinocur
8/30/16, 1:57 PM CET

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron was preparing on Tuesday to offer his resignation to French President François Hollande, according to a source close to France’s economy minister who confirmed an earlier report in business daily Les Echos.

The resignation, which has been rumored for months, will allow Macron to focus on a possible presidential bid after he launched his own political movement, En Marche (“Forward”) in April.

Macron had considered leaving the government then, on the advice of several of his associates, but finally delayed in order to get a clearer idea of how the presidential field would look in the fall, an aide explained at the time.

Le Monde daily, citing a source close to the minister, reported that Macron would offer Hollande his resignation in the afternoon at a meeting not written into the president’s official schedule.

Macron’s spokeswoman and other members of his staff were not immediately available to comment.

No longer serving as a minister would free Macron to devote himself more fully to his En Marche campaign, which lost some momentum over the summer after a terrorist attack in Nice refocused national attention on security, not an obvious strong point for an economy-focused minister.

A former investment banker with Rothschilds, Macron, 38, joined Hollande’s team as an adviser, where he was credited with engineering the Socialist president’s abrupt shift to supply-side economic policies in 2014.

As economy minister, Macron focused on defending French interests in trade disputes and promoting startup culture. But exposure also brought criticism from Socialist colleagues in government, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who complained in private and at times in public that Macron — who describes himself as being sympathetic to the Left although not a member of the Socialist Party — was too self-promoting and stepped outside the limits of his cabinet post.


Pierre Briançon and
Nicholas Vinocur

France’s summer stars face a tough fall

As presidential campaign season gets serious, media darlings Alain Juppé and Emmanuel Macron will come under fire.


PARIS — The spring and summer darlings of the French political scene may struggle in the fall.

Alain Juppé and Emmanuel Macron became France’s two most popular politicians over the last few months as voters, tired of both sitting President François Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, are looking for new leaders whom they consider more able to deal with the tough period France is going through.

True, the French seem to like both men for different reasons — Juppé because he has experience, Macron because he doesn’t. The former is 71 and was prime minister under conservative president Jacques Chirac more than 20 years ago. The latter is 38 and has only been economy minister — a relatively minor job in the French government — for the last two years.

But so far both men remain high in the electorate’s esteem. Juppé is still the most popular politician, according to the latest IPSOS poll, after spending most of the year in town meetings and honing his message, promising a shock-and-awe push for reform in his mandate’s first six months. And Macron seems to have benefited from his increasing political assertiveness, launching a political movement and promising his followers that he would “lead [them] to victory” next year.

It’s worth noting that part of their appeal is relative, and that they only stand out in contrast to the deep mistrust in which the French hold most other politicians.

Macron’s main problem is that he is mostly popular with conservative voters, and not that much within his own camp.

But both men will face similar challenges to translate into actual votes what IPSOS pollster Mathieu Gallard calls their “paper popularity.” Juppé is running in the conservative Les Républicains party’s primary, to be held in November. Macron is mulling leaving the Socialist government in September or October to be free to run as an independent candidate in the presidential election in May 2017 — a decision he hasn’t made yet, according to an aide.

Juppé’s main rival for now is Sarkozy, who didn’t surprise anyone last week when he officially confirmed he would run. Macron’s main problem is that he is mostly popular with conservative voters, and not that much within his own camp.

Bubble deflation

Several factors may soon challenge both men’s standing in the polls, advisers from within their own camps acknowledge. The first is that the Nice terror attacks in July have put an increased emphasis on security concerns. On the Right, that plays into the tough law-and-order campaign Sarkozy is preparing. On the Left it favors the experience of a sitting president to deal with threats both domestic and foreign.

The second reason why “the bubble may be deflating,” in the words of a top Juppé adviser, is that as France gets nearer to the primaries and the general election, both Juppé and Macron will increasingly become targets for political attacks — first from within their own camps, then from their traditional adversaries.

It has already begun. Sarkozy has spent months alluding not-so-subtly to Juppé’s age, even though he’s only 10 years younger than his rival. And Macron’s proclamations that the Socialist government he belongs to has failed has turned Prime Minister Manuel Valls, his former ally, into an arch-enemy.

“It’s high time for all of this to stop,” a visibly irate Valls said on the eve of Macron’s first big public rally in July.

Valls, meanwhile, is entertaining presidential ambitions of his own in case Hollande bows out, and the prime minister would then be likely to run on a law-and-order platform remarkably similar to that of Sarkozy.

So far the attacks against Juppé and Macron are only skirmishes compared to what awaits the duo once the campaigns start in earnest. Then the candidates’ specific ideas or proposals, which the French tend to forget when polled for popularity ratings, will come under attack.

In that respect Macron may have the most to lose if people start to really pay attention to what he is saying. “There’s a paradox that he remains highly popular with his resolutely liberal agenda — both on the economy and on social matters — in a country that is not that liberal at all,” Gallard said.

As economy minister, Macron has defended reforms that were always far more popular on the Right than on the Left — such as scrapping the 35-hour week, or liberalizing labor markets.

And ever since the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, he has advocated a response “that would not be all about security” but would include dealing with the derelict banlieues, home to a high proportion of French Muslims. There is “too much urgency and emotion” in the current debates, he recently said.

Simple solutions

All this might make Macron look like a man running against the times, one of his own advisers admits. “Trying to be open and reasonable when politicians are competing on closed borders and demagogy is a fine line to tread,” the adviser said.

But speaking at the first rally of his official campaign on Saturday, Juppé didn’t seem to consider that a losing battle. Without naming Sarkozy, he seemed on the contrary intent on emphasizing the difference with his rival. “My campaign will not be based on fear,” he insisted.

The “three challenges” France must take on, Juppé said, were equality between men and women, the ecology and technological change.

“I will not accept a French-style Guantanamo in which thousands of people would be detained without trial on mere suspicion” — Alain Juppé
In the current context, that might be enough to make Juppé look like candidate Moonbeam.

The former PM however knows he has to talk about terrorism, which seems the only theme Sarkozy intends to run on. But he thinks French voters also want to hear what candidates have to say about the economy, education and even — he and Macron being the only two politicians to even mention the theme — Europe.

His problem is to find a way to appear firm and resolute without emulating Sarkozy’s fierce law-and-order rhetoric — which his aide called “Le Pen-light.” In the book the former president published last week announcing his candidacy, Sarkozy casually brushed off the concerns of “finicky lawyers” concerning proposals that would raise serious constitutional questions — for example on the detention of people suspected of terrorist sympathies.

“I will not accept a French-style Guantanamo in which thousands of people would be detained without trial on mere suspicion,” Juppé said Saturday in a direct answer to Sarkozy’s proposal.

“He’s not the kind to go for the simple solutions people sometimes demand in times like these,” his aide noted.

But the unspoken fear among candidates eager to appear reasonable and measured is that new terror attacks in the next few months might push French voters further towards simplicity.

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