Last April, France elected their youngest leader since Napoleon, Emmanuel Macron. A year on, the President of the Republic’s popularity is waning as his approval ratings continue to fall. Some critics say Macron’s centrist platform is a fallacy and correlate his actions, perceived to be far from centrist, to be the reason why.
However, the case can be made that Macron is governing France as a centrist; the same ideology he ran on during his presidential campaign.
A working definition of centrism is seen to be the political position that favours a degree of social egalitarianism, whilst simultaneously defending a degree of social hierarchy; avoiding the dogmatism of the political left and right.
Macron’s actions, over the past year, have been predominantly centrist. He has been consistent in his opposition of the far-right with his avoidance of nationalist rhetoric, but nevertheless been pragmatic in his approach to immigration and anti-terrorism.
Macron’s actions, over the past year, have been predominantly centrist
Regarding the left, he has consistently opposed left-leaning economic policies reflected in his moderating of labour market regulations, giving more autonomy to employers to hire and fire workers, and controlling the influence of the unions.
As of April 2018, over 40% of railroad workers have been involved in strikes regarding the new proposed reforms of the SNCF (state-owned railway), designed to bring France’s national railway in line with new EU requirements by 2020.
Even though Macron’s policies have caused protests, most recently in May 2018 on the fiftieth anniversary of the riots of 1968, it is unfounded to call these policies radically right, even though perceived to be from a French socialist viewpoint. Macron’s reforms can be viewed to be relatively moderate from the wider European perspective.
Macron has never shied away from his neo-liberal economic policies. In his 2017 budget, he outlined €15 billion worth of cuts to public services and a desire to cut corporation tax from 33% to 25% by 2022.
However, Macron is not just committed to fiscal austerity; he has simultaneously committed €1.5 billion into AI (Artificial Intelligence) research and the adoption of the Big Investment Plan of €57bn over the course of five years.
This fiscal stimulus aims to tackle unemployment, to promote the competitiveness of the market, enhance France’s digital economy and reduce carbon emissions.
Whilst economically, Macron takes a right-wing position in many areas of his fiscal strategy, this does not undermine his overall ideology as a centrist politician. He does believe in the value of selective public investment and is left-leaning in other areas beyond economics.
Seeming contradictions in Macron’s ideology only strengthen his claim as a centrist because he adopts important elements from both ideological traditions.
In terms of curbing civil liberties, Macron, nonetheless, has been radical by adopting an authoritarian approach. His new anti-terrorism laws, that allow local government to conduct surprise-search private property and limit judicial oversight for suspected terrorists makes France the only country in Europe to be effectively in a permanent state of emergency.
All the same, Macron’s continued vocal support of strong environmental policy continue to ratify him as one of Europe’s leading centrist politicians. His condemnation of President Trump’s removal of the USA from the Paris Climate Change Accord in June 2017, and his reaffirmation during his state visit to America in April 2018 shows Macron has not changed France’s policy course regarding climate change, adopting the consensus of many European nations and the EU’s positions.
Additionally, on the global stage, Macron’s centrism persists. He has been unfaltering in his support of the Western liberal consensus upholding the West and the EU’s opposition to Russian interference in democratic nations.
Macron has denounced Russian state-sponsored news channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik, whilst being diplomatically firm with President Putin in May 2017. His collaboration with the USA and the UK in the Syrian bombing of government sites in response to President Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Douma in April 2018 show that he still values the support from his traditional allies.
The French President’s defence of the European liberal status-quo is also reflected in his enthusiastic support of increased integration at the European Union level and the maintenance and progression of France’s position within the union.
it is unfair to perpetuate Macron as right-wing in all aspects of his ideology and actions, proclaiming that his centrism is a myth
Macron’s zeal for the European project can be argued to be Europhilic, which is proved through his support of Junker, President of the European Commission’s proposals for an EU standing army in the form of a European Defence Force that would be under a single doctrine and budget; and in addition, a common budget that encompasses the whole of the Eurozone.
Nonetheless, overall, Macron’s support for the EU is moderate and centrist as he maintains France’s precedent as a founding member of the community.
Whilst the left will continue to rail against Macron and accuse him of being an “ultra-liberal” with his hard-line monetarist policies, his support of tax cuts and his labour law reforms, it is unfair to perpetuate Macron as right-wing in all aspects of his ideology and actions, proclaiming that his centrism is a myth.
His stances on the EU, environmental policy, the role of the state and public investment, and his rejection of the rhetoric of the far-right and far-left prove that Macron’s ideological profile continues to point towards the centre.