Europe

Emmanuel Macron: France's ambitious man 'on the move'

File pic of Emmanuel Macron Image copyright AFP
Image caption Emmanuel Macron is seen as pro-business and in favour of deregulation

At the politically tender age of 39, Emmanuel Macron - the newly-elected president - has shaken up French politics with the skill of a seasoned veteran.

In a vitriolic TV debate during campaigning on 3 May he also showed that he could hurl insults as forcefully as his nationalist rival, Marine Le Pen.

The name of his movement - En Marche - is also an apt description of the ambitious former economy minister himself - a man "on the move".

He undoubtedly gained extra votes thanks to the sleaze scandal that hit the conservative Republicans candidate, François Fillon.

Mr Fillon denied impropriety over payments that his wife and children received. But his ratings slumped and he came third in the first round, which Mr Macron won.

"My aim isn't to bring together the right or the left but to bring together the French people," Mr Macron said last year, announcing his presidential bid.

After four years as an investment banker with Rothschild & Cie, where he became an associate partner, Mr Macron had his first taste of government under Socialist President François Hollande.

Ms Le Pen, as well as traditional left-wing Socialists, scorn Mr Macron as a product of the French elite and suggest that his agenda for change is phoney. Some on the left deride him as a "copy-and-paste Tony Blair".

But Mr Macron's bold seizure of the centre ground has left the Socialists and the Republicans - the decades-old political elite - reeling.

Despite many voters' gripes about the EU he has argued passionately for European integration. The EU market is vital for France to re-energise its sluggish economy, he says.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Macron said France's political system was paralysed and failed to protect those it needed to

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Initially he worked as a presidential economic adviser before taking up the post of economy minister in 2014.

Although little known initially, he soon forged a reputation with the controversial "Macron Law" - reforms that allowed shops to open more often on Sundays and deregulated some sectors of industry.

The law was forced through by Prime Minister Manuel Valls despite large protests and opposition from left-wing party rebels. In an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk, Mr Macron insisted his Socialist opponents were tiny in number.

For much of France's business community he became a breath of fresh air, with a list of pro-business policies aimed at boosting economic growth. He championed digital start-ups and prompted a long-distance bus market.

But he is still a political novice - never previously elected and little versed in the tough cut-and-thrust of French politics.


Macron's meteoric rise

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brigitte Trogneux - Mr Macron's ex-drama teacher and now wife - fascinates the media

Born in the northern city of Amiens, Mr Macron was educated at the prestigious Henri-IV public secondary school in Paris. It is regarded as one of the most demanding sixth-form colleges in France.

His parents were both doctors and well-to-do. He studied philosophy at the University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre, and got postgraduate degrees at Paris's prestigious Sciences Po and the elite ENA college.

ENA is traditionally the incubator for France's top civil servants.

He joined Rothschild & Cie in 2008, where he worked as an investment banker.

He first met François Hollande in 2006 and although he was courted by the centre-right, he felt more at home with the Socialists. He has never been elected an MP.

He raised eyebrows in 2007 when he married his former drama teacher Brigitte Trogneux, 20 years his senior.

She was quoted by Paris Match magazine as saying: "At the age of 17, Emmanuel said to me, 'Whatever you do, I will marry you!'"

She is reckoned to have had some influence over his politics: his manifesto (in French) highlights education as the top priority.

In depth: The meteoric rise of Macron


Soon this protégé of President Hollande developed political ambitions of his own, and his position in government became increasingly awkward in April 2016 when he set up En Marche.

He was threatened with the sack by Mr Hollande. "If you don't respect the rules, you're out," the president said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Hollande has for years acted as mentor to Mr Macron

At a protest in June held by the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union, Mr Macron was told to "get lost" and pelted with eggs after telling a union member "the best way to afford a suit is to work".

He resigned in August and began preparing his presidential bid.

At one point in the election campaign he appeared to be outsmarted by Ms Le Pen, in an uncomfortable repeat confrontation with angry workers.

He was booed and heckled at the Whirlpool factory in his hometown Amiens - after Ms Le Pen had posed for selfies with workers at the factory gates.

What does he stand for?

His En Marche movement now counts more than 200,000 followers and he has developed a platform that mixes public investment with business-friendly policies.

At the heart of his ideas are plans to end France's 35-hour week for younger workers. "When you're young, 35 hours isn't enough. You want to work more and learn your job," he told Le Nouvel Observateur.

As for workers in their 50s, he argues they should have the choice of a shorter working week.

There are radical plans for a cut in some primary school class sizes and a "culture-pass" for every 18-year-old.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Macron ends his rallies with his arms outstretched and a cry of "Long live France!"

He is a polished performer on stage and has attracted a loyal following.

When he raised his arms to the heavens and cried "Vive la France!" at a rally in December, his fervent style was widely ridiculed. But it only served to get his message across.

He has had the occasional wobble. A claim that France's colonisation of Algeria had been a "crime against humanity" led to an outcry and a brief setback in the polls.

But an early boost to his campaign came from veteran liberal François Bayrou, an ex-presidential candidate who threw his weight behind him.

He has shown a deft touch in handling slurs on his private life. Rejecting lurid claims of a gay affair, he told supporters that his wife Brigitte "shares my whole life from morning till night and she wonders how I could physically do it!"

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