Sunday, April 24, 2016

Macronomics

No, the title is not a typo. The question on everyone's lips these days is, Whither Macron? Just as Macron intended. He has played his hand as Sarkozy played his during Chirac's fin de règne. Make your ambition clear, multiply the stabs at your boss to demonstrate your independence, endure his rebukes for a while, and then slam the door.

The latest round between Macron and Hollande is the lamentable EDF affair, detailed here (paywall). Supposedly a slap in the face for Macron, whose recent statements on the future of the Hinkley Point project were countermanded by Hollande 3 days later. But Macron has the last laugh: the €3 billion needed to rescue EDF will make Hollande's economic record look even sorrier than it does already, facilitating Macron's task of running against it--even though he will have only recently abandoned his post as Hollande's minister of the economy. Is it any wonder that voters have tired of these games? Yet they seem not to have tired--yet--of Macron, who is riding high in the polls.

Still, it's hard to imagine Macron getting the nomination of the PS or the broader left, where he is generally regarded as the symbol of everything that has deepened the rift between the government and its base. It's much easier, in fact, to imagine Macron as a potential prime minister under Alain Juppé, who might try to sell such an appointment as a reconciliation of center-left and center-right. Of course there would be howls from Republicans who might think they deserve the nod, but a number of the obvious candidates would seem to have disqualified themselves. Bruno Le Maire has taken a turn to the right in his presidential bid, so Juppé might hesitate to appoint him. Laurent Wauquiez has skated even farther right and in any case stuck his neck out as Sarkozy's liege man. There have been reports of a deal between François Baroin and Sarko that if the latter becomes president, Baroin will be named prime minister, in return for which he is quietly working as head of the association of French mayors to persuade Republican mayors not to dump the ex-president as damaged goods. NKM is too loose a cannon for a buttoned-down leader like Juppé, and she wouldn't bring him the cred with le patronat that Macron has earned with services rendered.

And of course if Juppé doesn't nominate Macron, the young Emmanuel will nevertheless have positioned himself nicely for a presidential bid in 2022 as the candidate of either left or right--such is his marvelous ambidexterity, a very desirable quality at a time when both the Socialists and the Republicans are threatening to come apart at the seams. The party landscape in 2022 may look quite different from what it is today, and no one is better placed to take advantage of a party realignment than Macron.

When you think about it, it's really a rather bizarre situation. The leading candidate on the center-right is a man who was not so long ago booed when he appeared before the party faithful. And the man who might be his choice for prime minister is similarly a bête noire for many in his own camp. The reaction against elitist rule is fueling the rise of the Front National, yet it's easy to imagine two énarques as the next president and prime minister. And they would likely come to office, as both Sarkozy and Hollande did, with approval ratings above 60%. France is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.