Modern president with the Midas touch

Mr Emmanuel Macron, whose party is projected to sweep into Parliament, shaking hands with people near Paris yesterday.
Mr Emmanuel Macron, whose party is projected to sweep into Parliament, shaking hands with people near Paris yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PARIS • He is the man with the Midas touch - and French President Emmanuel Macron looks set to prove it again, when his party is projected to sweep into Parliament with one of the biggest majorities in the country's post-war history.

Just four weeks after taking office and 14 months after founding his Republique en Marche (REM), or Republic on the Move party, his candidates are poised to dynamite the traditional parties that have dominated French politics for half a century.

But the hardest part may lie ahead. While REM is set to crush its rivals, the 39-year-old President could struggle to get his plans for far-reaching labour reforms past the fiery French streets.

Opponents are also pointing out how low turnout for the parliamentary elections - less than half of voters are expected to have cast a ballot - could undermine his claims to hold a strong mandate for change.

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So far, he has enjoyed a political honeymoon. In meetings with leaders, including Germany's Dr Angela Merkel, Russia's Mr Vladimir Putin and India's Mr Narendra Modi, "le Kid", as L'Express news weekly nicknamed him, has made an instant impact on the international stage.

"France is in vogue again, France is cool," Spain's El Pais newspaper wrote, comparing the "Macron-mania" with the enthusiasm that swept the US after Mr Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

In a country where political careers have traditionally been built over decades, Mr Macron, a relative political novice, took the risk of founding his own party rather than trying to seek the nomination of the Socialists or the Republicans, the heavyweight parties on the left and right. Using his image as a moderniser, he attracted thousands of volunteers to his party, which was modelled partly on Mr Obama's 2008 campaign.

But scandals have hit Mr Macron's administration. The Canard Enchaine newspaper revealed last month that one of his closest allies, Mr Richard Ferrand, had benefited from an insider property deal while running a public health fund.

Despite calls for his resignation, the government braved the storm and stood by him, conceding that Mr Ferrand's actions may have been unethical but were not unlawful. A prosecutor has opened a probe.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'Modern president with the Midas touch'. Print Edition | Subscribe