Tuesday 23 January 2018

Government defections a fresh boost for Macron

Emmanuel Macron at a conference in Paris this week. Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau
Emmanuel Macron at a conference in Paris this week. Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau

Brian Love in Paris

Two members of France's Socialist government deserted their party's presidential challenger yesterday and threw their support behind Emmanuel Macron, bolstering the 39-year-old centrist's bid for the Elysée.

The biggest catch for Mr Macron was the defection of Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, a Socialist Party grandee who has been a close ally and friend of outgoing President François Hollande for nearly 40 years.

The Socialist Party candidate, Benoit Hamon, who faces poor poll ratings and the prospect of crashing out in the first round, accused Mr Le Drian of short-changing his own voters.

"In democracies, it is not acceptable that politicians only honour the will of those who elected them when it suits," Mr Hamon said in a statement.

Earlier this week, some senior members of the Socialist Party criticised former prime minister Manuel Valls for failing to publicly back Mr Hamon, who beat him to the party nomination.

Mr Macron, a political novice who has never held elected office, has gatecrashed the leadership contest with a pledge to transcend the long-established divide of left-versus-right politics with a programme for cross-partisan government.

"I'm always happy when men and women of conviction join us and as regards Jean-Yves Le Drian, he's a politician for whom I have much respect," Mr Macron told reporters in Dijon in eastern France, where he was campaigning.

In a sign of Mr Macron's growing popularity, the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll for the first time yesterday showed Mr Macron winning both the first round on April 23 and the decisive run-off vote. A Harris Interactive survey published earlier in the day showed the same outcome. In the Harris Interactive poll, Mr Hamon had slipped to fifth place.

The second Socialist defection yesterday was that of Thierry Braillard, a junior sports minister. Another junior minister, Barbara Pompili, also switched allegiance to Mr Macron this week.

Mr Hollande, France's first president not to seek re-election since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1962, had appealed to ministers to refrain until the end of this week from taking pre-election positions.

The support of Mr Le Drian, a respected voice on security matters and foreign affairs will be welcome news for Mr Macron, a youthful former economy minister, who has been criticised by opponents for lacking experience in these areas.

Mr Macron also won support from the other side of the political divide. Philippe Douste-Blazy, a right-wing former minister for health and foreign affairs, told 'Marianne' magazine he would back him.

Irish Independent

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