Ex-finance chief joins French race

Ex-finance chief joins French race

Emmanuel Macron. Source: Wikimedia

Former French finance minister Emmanuel Macron has launched his bid for the presidency next year. He is likely to take votes from mainstream candidates with the far-right leader Marine Le Pen expected to perform strongly. 

The one-time investment banker, who was President Francois Hollande’s economy minister until September, will stand as an independent.

“France has always been the country of progress, but it has fallen off the path,” Macron told the media. “I’m convinced our country wants to advance.”

Macron, 38, is regarded as one of France’s most popular politicians, but does not hold office and has no party behind him. He also has yet to unveil any detailed policies.

He is expected to take votes from right-of-centre Alain Juppe, the current favourite, who is embroiled in a tight primary battle.

Macron said he wanted to move France away from “clan-based politics”, adding that he had “witnessed the shallowness of our political system from the inside”.

He said the best way to deal with globalisation was closer ties with the rest of the EU, in contrast to the protectionist policies of some contenders.

“When we’re young, 35 hours isn’t enough. We want to work more, we want to learn our job,” Macron said.

He argued that some firms avoided hiring young people knowing that they would have to spend time learning the job.

“We need more flexibility,” Macron said, adding that working hours should reflect an employee’s age with younger staff free to negotiate to work longer hours.

Picking a single age for retirement made no sense, Macron said. “Some people want to retire at 60, others 65, others 67. You have to be able to adapt to individuals and situations,” the youthful challenger said, while saying the self employed or freelance would have the right to benefits.

“We need to protect the hazards of working life that aren’t covered right now, especially in small businesses and among the self employed,” Macron said.

Macron’s campaign organisers said they had amassed €2.7 million from 6,400 donors. The spending cap in the 2012 campaign was about €21 million.

Juppe has adopted a pro-European and centrist stance, to the left of his main rival, former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Sarko” is trying to attract populist voters with criticism of the European Union and Hollande’s security and immigration policies after a series of Islamist attacks.

Polls, which have had a bad year so far, put the 71-year-old former premier Juppe ahead of Sarkozy.

Juppe is then expected to win the run off as a coalition of voters back him to keep out the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front leader Le Pen.

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