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Why I will be voting for Emmanuel Macron this Sunday

Friday, 08 Apr 2022 7:45 AM MYT By Helen Hickey

APRIL 8 — Our election cards arrived in the post this week — two neat little envelopes holding blue and white check “Carte Electorales” — and a fat A5 envelope packed tightly with glossy campaign materials for those candidates who qualified for the first round of France’s presidential election.

It’s like a beauty parade on my bedroom floor; the faces of 12 candidates trying to catch my eye as I type.

Un autre monde est possible (Another world is possible) announces fiery leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, or Ensemble changeons d’avenir (Together we can change the future) promises smiley Anne Hidalgo, France’s first female mayor of Paris.

Although with polls standing at 2.5 per cent, Socialist Hidalgo and her clever green initiatives are unlikely to get very far. A shame.

On Sunday morning, I will be heading to my polling station “Ecole Colbert” at the end of my road. Who’d have thought it? I spent most of my younger years avoiding politics, helped along by years of living in a disconnected fashion in foreign countries.

Brexit, with its all-about-me, anti-Europe, xenophobic nest of nasties broke my bubble of ignorance. What a disaster it has been for my home country, the “not-so-Great-anymore-Britain.”‘

It’s taken me eight long years to become a French citizen: I am proud of my burgundy “Union européenne” passport.

I am proud to live in a country whose leader openly welcomes refugees fleeing from the war in Ukraine, rather than actively discouraging them through impossible bureaucracy like that cast by the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel... Pretty Awful Patel.

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference at the end of a special meeting of the European Council in light of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, in Brussels February 25, 2022. ― Reuters pic

I am proud to have a president who has shown himself capable of building bridges through diplomacy: President Emmanuel Macron may not succeed in turning the tide through his conversations with President Vladimir Putin, but at least he’s trying.

Conversely, last month saw another excruciating Boris Johnson moment when he bizarrely compared Ukraine’s fight to Brexit. Nothing even remotely connects the UK’s decision to leave Europe with Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s brutal war. Boris is an embarrassment. He should be made to eat a leaf out of his own book The Churchill Factor on the respected Winston Churchill.

Given the volatile climate, where we teeter on the edge of a deep crevasse that might plunge us into WWIII, having a leader who is a safe pair of hands, who is tried and tested, to take France through the next five years is of paramount importance. This is particularly so given the fracture line in Europe created by Brexit and the loss of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Europe in all but name for the past 16 years before she stepped down in December.

And so no, I shan’t be voting for the right-wing Marine Le Pen to be Marine Présidente. She has very questionable ties with President Putin, not least the €11 million loan (RM50 million) her former Front National party received from a Kremlin-friendly Russian bank that funded her election campaign in 2017. French banks refused to provide finance because of the Front National’s anti-Semitic past, a party set up by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Nazi sympathizer.

Le Pen has benefitted from Éric Zemmour’s entrance into the election melee last November. This extreme-right candidate, distinctly reptilian in looks, wants to “save France” from mass immigration (ironic, really, given his Jewish-Algerian ancestry) and loss of France’s French-ness.

His violent rallies and anti-Muslim stance make Le Pen look positively moderate. If the defacing of Zemmour’s election posters in my town is any indicator, this former TV pundit won’t stand a chance on Sunday.

The latest Ifop-Fiducial group poll shows Le Pen gaining 24 per cent of the vote, Macron 26.5 per cent and Mélenchon 17.5 per cent. The others, well, N’ importe quoi (Effectively, of no real threat). The two leading candidates go through to a runoff on the 24th.

A month ago, it looked as though Macron would have an easy victory in the second round. Now, he looks vulnerable: polls suggest Macron might win by just 52 per cent to Le Pen’s 48 per cent. An uncomfortably narrow margin. This predicament has arisen partly because of his time-consuming role as the Moscow and Kyiv go-between, which made Macron late to the campaign table and pick-me parade — his first rally only took place last Saturday.

Also, Le Pen’s hyper-focus on the increasing cost of living, notably the price of fuel (an eye-watering €2 plus a litre), has struck a chord with voters, some of whom see the former banker as a president of the rich.

No leader is perfect, but I rather like Macron’s style. His centrist policies have served France well over the past five years. France has one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe (4.2 per cent) and employment rates are at an all-time high.

Macron’s progressive and business-friendly reforms have been largely appreciated, and his robust handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that France is steadily bouncing back, by no means to business as normal, but safely en route.

In times of war, it is said that citizens tend to rally around a president as the head of military and foreign policy. Let’s hope this principle plays out…

Here’s to Macron and his Nous Tous (All of us).

* This is the personal view of the columnist.


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