March 04, 2019
Macron's two-month sprint
Emmanuel Macron will kick-start the European election campaign tomorrow with an op-ed in all EU member states. Delayed by the gilets jaunes his team has now begun an intensive two-month campaign. Stéphane Séjourné, a former presidential adviser, is leading strategy meetings that include personalities across the political spectrum such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit and François Bayrou. Who will be leading Macron's candidate list? Health minister Agnès Buzyn is the most talked about. Will there be defections from Les Républicans? Jean-Pierre Raffarin is tempted to join the Macron camp according to l'Opinion. Other names have been suggested.
As for future alliances in the European Parliament, the team is very much counting on the implosion of the EPP over Viktor Orbán, while the prospective alliance with Ciudadanos from Spain is cooling off after Ciudadanos aligned itelf with the far-right in Andalusia. These will be tricky negotiations. What is needed is someone with political sensitivity and negotiation skills, a profile not always compatible with the image at home of the young candidates standing for the renewal of the party system.
What will be the message? Expect Macron's article to outline the roadmap. It will pick up from his Sorbonne speech and promote the old French trope he has made his own, that of a Europe that protects. Pitting progressives versus nationalists will be part of the strategy, even if Macron has toned down this narrative earlier.
For a more longer-term perspective we note that, while the relationship between France and Italy may not be so good at government level, it seems to be thriving on the far right. Vincenzo Sofo, the young intellectual who helped the Lega Nord to expand from a provincial to a national party, is the new boyfriend of Marion Maréchal Le Pen, according to Nouvel Observateur. Both are young and photogenic. They share the same ideas. Watch out for what will come from their alliance.