МОСКВА, 08 марта 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

Against the background of the special military operation conducted by Russia in Ukraine, the French presidential election has receded into the background. Meanwhile, yesterday Emmanuel Macron announced that he was entering the fight for a second presidential mandate. He did this in an address to the nation printed in the provincial press just a month before the vote.

In France, whose kings became famous for the formula «The state is me”, the current head of state promised to be «president until the last quarter of an hour”. Then – for a quarter of an hour — he, so be it, will become a candidate. But in general, there is no time for debates and other politicking – it’s necessary to work! Even the announcement of the candidacy itself became known at the last moment — less than a day before the deadline for nomination. And how else, when crises surround the nation from all sides?

In the very first comments, hot on the heels, when it became known about the deadline and the form of nomination, it was already said: now it is possible without a program, because the program is himself. In the five years that Emmanuel Macron has ruled the country, there are countless of them — terrorism, Yellow Vests, COVID and sanitary isolation, withdrawal from Mali and bedlam throughout French Africa, the Ukrainian crisis… How to discuss the results of the governing body, when it is necessary to be saved. And to be saved is to vote for the saviour.

It is no coincidence that the provincial press, which is very popular in France — people will buy newspapers together with baguettes, right in the morning, and immediately understand who the president is counting on — was chosen to address the nation. Before him, only Francois Mitterrand did this – his address to the nation through the local press on the eve of the 1988 elections, which ended with his convincing re-election, was then dubbed the «Ni-ni Letter”, because it said practically nothing about the program, except for the cornerstone thesis: «your program is me.»

Of course, in the 35 years since that appeal, political technologists have improved. Emmanuel Macron prepared his nomination with a series of speeches, the key topics of which were the struggle for the future for France (nuclear technology, the role in Europe, economic development and reducing unemployment – it is the lowest in the country in 15 years), as well as the willingness to protect all this from threats to global peace.

One analyst even joked: when the president was asked if he was ready to move forward in the coming days, he responded by unfolding his vision for the coming decades. In general, he deliberately tormented everyone, from competitors to analysts, with his non-nomination; in the end, both those and others themselves began to push him to this.

As for the program, it will certainly appear now. Macron is expected to unveil it at a large rally in Marseille next Saturday, March 5. However, it will change this a little. In order to catch up with the president, whose approval rating is twice as high as that of his closest rival (it will again be, according to polls, the same Marine Le Pen), it is necessary to discuss the results of his reign, and preferably in face-to-face debates.

And how to drag the «father of the nation», who saves Europe every day, to them? It is not for nothing that at all meetings where Macron could be side by side with rivals, he was replaced by faithful Prime Minister Jean Castex – the president himself either urgently went to an extraordinary summit in Brussels, or spoke on the phone with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, Olaf Scholz or Vladimir Zelensky.

Now — about Russia. More precisely, about the Ukrainian crisis, which the French president undertook to resolve personally. He could not solve it, which he himself understood, but he made all the efforts he could. In any case, he demonstrated it. Everything is much worse for the rivals – they bypass the topic of Ukraine, because after sharp anti-NATO and anti-American statements they are forced to play catch-up, fitting into the new anti-Russian Euromainstream.

Moscow had no right, nothing justifies it — everyone says this, from Marine Le Pen to Eric Zemmour. The only exception is ex-right-wing candidate and ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who said after February 24 that «a dangerous confrontation could have been avoided if the West had heard Russian concerns about (NATO expansion)”. But he was removed from the race at the previous presidential election, in 2017.

In general, Macron showed the other candidates, and most importantly, the voter, who is the boss in the house. Or, as they say in France, who is the «master of the clock» — that is, who manages the agenda. No one knows what surprises to expect from the development of the Ukrainian crisis, but the current president hedged his bets.

He made a speech about Europe being for Ukraine (although, as noted, he pretty much dragged it out; de Gaulle and Churchill spoke in such situations for 2-3 minutes, Macron – all 15). And the next day he called the President of Russia, who, it is necessary to think, will call again. It’s hard to call this an unambiguous position, but no matter how events turn out, President Macron will back up candidate Macron.

In the confusion that awaits Europe tomorrow, this is not the worst of the options — to change, so to speak, along with the general line of European policy. For us, by the way, this is not the worst option, because the European Union was driven into the current anti-Russian sanctions by Brussels bureaucrats, whom no one chose and who are not going to change.

All of this is certainly ambiguous. But the real idea of Macron was France at the head of Europe, which can stand up for itself. He promoted the new European structure in tandem with Merkel, he sincerely wanted it, and the geopolitical affronts from the Anglo-Saxons repeatedly pushed him towards big European policy.

But it seems that he has overextended himself: France does not have enough levers for such achievements with all the ambitions; Europe, especially in the Ukrainian crisis, is being toyed with by others. Although with any luck, Macron would not mind returning to the big European game. Already with a new five-year mandate.

As for the actual forecasts for the election, in the second round, if to believe the polls, Emmanuel Macron will have to cross swords with any of the ladies. It’s either about Marine Le Pen from the radical right-wing «National Association», which is convenient because it loses all the time.

Or about Valérie Pécresse from the classic right-wing Republican Party, which is more inconvenient — and above all, because it will highlight the background: it will be necessary to choose between two candidates «for the rich” — in any case, very well-off. The last duel threatens a critical number of abstainers, and this often makes the outcome of elections unpredictable.

That is why precisely Emmanuel Macron goes to the polls as a «candidate against crises», able to bring the whole of France together at least for a short moment. That is why he writes letters to the country in the provincial press, knowing well where most of the «average French people» who escaped from megacities from globalisation live.

And that is precisely why the first gesture of candidate Macron was the cancellation of the «vaccine passport», which extremely irritated his compatriots (the same loyal Prime Minister Castex announced victory over omicron). Now they can say: look, citizens, we have won this crisis together with Macron. And we’ll think about the others tomorrow. It seems that such crises will not leave us even after the election.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат

(@russtrat)

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