Emmanuel Macron, the “outsider” politician who revolutionized French politics and stopped the extreme right twice
Weeks before winning re-election in the second round of the electoral contest, Emmanuel Macron was involved in a heated argument with a dental assistant.
In fact, the only one who was screaming was her, says the BBC’s correspondent in Paris, Lucy Williamson.
But this exchange of words in the old mining town of Denain reveals the trait that propelled Macron to the presidency five years ago and up for re-election this Sunday. A trait that on the other hand, too, has made him win many opponents.
Elodie, the dental assistant, was furious. She loudly criticized her “insulting” language when describing those who had not been vaccinated against covid-19.
Macron, who won the second round of the elections this Sunday with 58% of the vote, told him that he had taken his words badly. Elodie then complained about taxes and price increases.
He replied that he had lowered the rates and that she was not being fair.
“Did you lower rates?” replied the incredulous woman. Have you been to the gas station? How much do you earn per month?
“I do not control the global market,” Macron replied. “We just won’t agree,” Elodie concluded.
“But it is important that I explain it,” Macron told him.
The French president has always believed that he has the answer to all the country’s problems. And that, if only he could explain his thoughts to the rest, they would also see it that way.
that self-confidence it has made him give long speeches, take a tough stance on protesters and project an image – to some – that he simply won’t listen.
This, however, has not prevented him from achieving a second termsomething quite unusual in French politics.
In fact, the only presidents who have been directly re-elected in the country were François Mitterand in 1988, and Jacques Chirac in 2002.
From banker to politician
Born to medical parents on December 21, 1977 in Amiens, in the north of the country, Macron had a brilliant education that allowed him to graduate from the prestigious Sciences Po institute.
He continued his studies at the ENA, a public administration school that left-wing politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement has described as the “institute of the French bourgeoisie and oligarchy”.
After graduating in 2005, Macron began his professional career at the French Inspectorate General for Finance.
Three years later his career took a turn when he was hired by the Rothschild bank, of which he became deputy director in just two years.
During his time at Rothschild, Macron was in charge of a large agreement between the transnationals Nestlé and Pfizer for some US$9.7 million, which left him a juicy and millionaire commission.
In 2012 he held the position of Deputy Secretary General of the presidency of François Hollande and in 2014 he became Minister of Economy and Finance.
In April 2016, without having yet left his government portfolio, he launched the movement En Marche! (On the go!) with a public act in Amiens.
And six months after the creation of En Marche!, the former minister announced his candidacy,
At that time he assured that his intention was overcome the traditional differences between the left and the right.
Even before coming to power, Macron “radiated a kind of almost religious determination about his project for France. How else could a 39-year-old man running his first election campaign ever become president?” Williamson wonders.
Alain Minc, an influential political adviser and mentor to Macron in his early days, tells the story of his meeting with the French president in the early 2000s.
“He came to see me, when I was a young financial inspector, and I asked him: ‘Where do you see yourself in 20 years?’ Macron replied: ‘I will be president’. I stayed frozen”.
When Macron launched his political movement, without the backing of any party or established structure, many people initially dismissed him for his lack of experience.
They thought it was a “champagne bubble that would dissolve before Election Day.”
They couldn’t have been more wrong.
The blind trust in his own vision that Macron brought to politics is also something that is reflected in his personal life.
His wife, Brigitte Trogneux, was formerly her drama teacher. When they met, she, 24 years older than him, was married with 3 children.
By the time Macron left his school, aged 16, he had promised to marry her.
“We called each other all the time and spent hours on the phone,” Trogneux said in a documentary. “Slowly he overcame my resistancein an incredible way, with patience”.
They got married in 2007.
It’s an unusual love story, and one of Macron’s biographers, Anne Fulda, says they both chose not to publicize their relationship until he ran for office.
The BBC’s Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson recalls that, in 2017, Fulda told her that Macron at the time wanted to give the idea that “if he could seduce a woman 24 years older than him in a small provincial town, despite prejudices, despite the gaze of the people and the ridicule, he could just as well conquer France“.
First presidential administration
In his first term, Macron created jobs, spent billions of dollars to support workers and businesses during the pandemic and, in the last six months, it has subsidized oil and gas prices.
But his core belief is that economic reform — to free up business and demand more from workers — is the way to alleviate poverty and fund the kind of social policies that are important to voters on the left.
Rather than narrowing the gap between the old classes and political divisions, this approach has opened them up further.
And some key decisions (such as the one to drastically reduce the wealth tax for the richest) taken shortly after taking office in his first presidency, have become emblems of his supposed “betrayal” of the working class and have won him the nickname of “president of the rich”.
It is an accusation that does not fit with the story that Macron likes to tell about himself.
“I was born in a provincial town, in a family that had nothing to do with the world of journalists, politicians or bankers,” he replied years ago to a journalist who questioned his appeal to the working classes.
In his autobiography, Macron recounts that his grandparents were a teacher, a railway worker, a social worker and a civil engineer.
Say what his maternal grandmother, the teacher Manette, was particularly important to himsince it introduced him to the world of literature and culture and taught him to think.
But it also gave him something else: Manette’s mother had been illiterate, and the story of her descendant who made it to the Elysée Palace it was a romantic storyfar more romantic than the son of a neurologist who went to private school and ran for president after a stint at an investment bank.
Even so, the truth is that the family history of Emmanuel Macron is one of overcoming social divisions, something that later he would try in politics.
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