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Continuity key theme as Macron finally declares candidacy in letter

We look at what he is promising for another five years as president and how his rivals have reacted

Emmanuel Macron is bidding for reelection as French president. Only two previous presidents, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, have served two full terms Pic: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

President Emmanuel Macron has officially declared his candidacy for April’s presidential election after delaying the decision due to the Covid pandemic and then because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Macron announced his plans in a near 1,000-word letter, published by regional media outlets in France yesterday evening (March 3). 

He had until today at 18:00 to announce his candidacy. 

The incumbent president has long since passed the threshold of receiving the 500 required signatures from elected officials that are needed in order to stand as a candidate. These signatures are called parrainages, read more about the system here. The latest count from yesterday shows he has 1,974. 

Ten other candidates have also passed the threshold.

What was the theme of Macron’s letter?

His letter focused on the theme of continuity. 

He spoke about how France has had to manage several crises during his leadership - terrorism, a pandemic and a war in Europe - and how it was important to continue facing up to these and making France a better place. 

“The transformations undertaken during this mandate have enabled many of our compatriots to live better, and France to gain more independence,” he wrote.

“The crises we have been going through for the past two years show that this is the path that must be followed.”

He also spoke about looking for solutions in the present and in the future, and not backwards – a veiled dig at his far-right competitors Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, who often seem nostalgic for a ‘better’ past. 

“It is by looking at the present with humility and lucidity, by not giving up any of our audacity, our will and our taste for the future that we will succeed,” he wrote

“The challenge is to build France for our children, not to dwell on the France of our childhood.”

What priorities did Macron set out in his letter?

He did not set out any clear policies, but his letter did point to what his priorities are in his election campaign. 

“I am a candidate to invent, with you, a unique French and European response to the challenges of the century,” he wrote. 

“I am a candidate to defend our values that the world's upheavals threaten. I am a candidate to continue to prepare the future of our children and our grandchildren, to allow us today and tomorrow to make decisions for ourselves.”

Other elements he mentioned are:

  • Work harder to lower taxes that impact work and production
  • Continue to invest in innovation and research, including renewable energy, nuclear, batteries, agriculture and digitisation
  • Preserve and even improve the social model in France
  • Give more respect and more money to schools and teachers
  • Invest in elderly care to allow people to remain at home for longer, and also to make retirement homes more humane
  • Continue work to make France more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities
  • Continue efforts to eradicate ‘medical deserts’
  • Defend the French identity, meaning to promote ‘a certain way of being in the world’
  • Continue investments in security and justice

The effects of the Ukraine war

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and since then Mr Macron has gained three percentage points in the polls, in terms of people’s intention to vote at the first round of the election.

He went from 25% to 28%, the latest Ifop poll shows, which is updated daily.

Pic: Élection présidentielle / Ifop

Mr Macron is currently polling as the favourite in people’s intention to vote in the first round, ahead of Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National) and Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains).

Pic: Élection présidentielle / Ifop

Meanwhile, the popularity of far-right candidate Éric Zemmour (Reconquête) has dropped significantly since Russia’s invasion, from 16% of intention to vote in the first round to 12%.

Mr Zemmour has been outspoken in his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, writing in the newspaper l’Opinion in 2018 that he “dreamed of a French Putin”.

Pic: Élection présidentielle / Ifop

Renaud Dély, a journalist at Franceinfo, suggested that the war in Ukraine has been good for Mr Macron’s election bid, with people more interested in stability at the moment.

“In an increasingly uncertain world, the French need to be reassured rather than rocked with changes,” he wrote in an article published this morning (March 4). 

Will Macron delaying his bid for presidency have an effect?

It will mean he has less time to campaign, and therefore less time to convince the public to vote for him. 

Mr Macron admitted as much in his letter, saying that due to global events - the pandemic and the war in Ukraine - he has had to alter his strategy. 

“Of course, I will not be able to campaign as I would have liked because of the context,” he wrote in the letter. 

Mr Dély, the Franceinfo journalist, suggested the same.

“When you spend an hour and a half on the phone with Putin every three days, as [Macron] did again on Thursday, that leaves little time to go and debate with Valérie Pécresse (the presidential candidate for Les Républicains),” he said. 

Read more: Putin disagrees with Macron speech, threatens more demands on Ukraine

Mr Dély said this could also play into Mr Macron’s favour, showing that he is a capable president.

“It is a way to take advantage of the status of outgoing President to the end,” Mr Dély said. 

How did the other candidates react to Macron’s declaration?

Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains)

Right-wing candidate Ms Pécresse said, “Emmanuel Macron tells us: I will do everything that, as president, I have not done, but who can still believe him?” she said.

“For that, it would be necessary to have the courage to make reforms, which he has so much lacked. His five-year term was one of lost illusions. Emmanuel Macron must be accountable.”

Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National)

Far-right candidate Ms Le Pen published the hashtag #sanslui (without him) on Twitter yesterday. 

She said she would do everything so that the next five years were without Mr Macron and with her. 

She also referenced the fact that Mr Macron acknowledged himself in his letter declaring his candidacy that he had “not completely succeeded” in his ambitions for the term. 

Éric Zemmour (Reconquête)

Far-right candidate Mr Zemmour published a video a few hours before Mr Macron’s letter was distributed in which he said, “Our country has become unlivable and you [Macron] are the cause”. 

After Mr Macron’s letter was published, Mr Zemmour directed a tweet at the president, saying, “our face-off can now begin”. 

Anne Hidalgo (Parti socialiste)

The centre-left candidate said that for months the president has been “serving his own campaign”, implying that Mr Macron has been campaigning for his re-election under the guise of making presidential decisions for the country. 

“The democratic debate that I seek, project against project, will finally be able to take place [now that he has declared himself as a candidate],” Ms Hidalgo said. 

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