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Independent to Enter French Presidential Race

by Kendall Shain, published

Political Independents are on the rise, in the US as well as globally. In the US, the number of people who identify themselves as Independents is at an all-time high of 42 percent, with those associating with the Democratic and Republican parties falling to new lows. Distrust of the government and the media is on the rise in the so-called "post-truth" era, along with a general dissatisfaction regarding the impacts of globalization on the average worker.

These sentiments have paved the way for an interesting global political climate -- the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote providing the most notable examples of the momentum of the populist movement. An abandoned middle class reminding politicians and leaders that they must not be forgotten, lost in the rising tide of globalization.

The current situation provides the perfect climate for the Independent to thrive. Donald Trump arguably fits into this category as a former Democrat running on the Republican ticket. Some believe that Trump used the Republican party as a vehicle to communicate his unique message, speaking to those that politicians had largely forgotten in recent years.

Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that he will be running for the French presidency in 2017 as an Independent. Marcon, like Trump, has never held elected office, although Macron has been involved in French politics.

Reuters states that "Macron, an ex-investment banker who introduced labor reforms for Hollande, has yet to set out his policies in any detail. Although one of France's most popular politicians, he has never held elected office and has no party apparatus behind him. Some say his campaign may struggle."

Sitting President Hollande of the Socialist party is eligible to run for re-election, but suffers from an abysmal approval rating, providing an opportunity for candidates, such as far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, to pick up steam. Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé are other strong contenders as potential nominees for the Republican party. These are only a few of the current presidential contenders going into next April's election.

Mr. Macron has created his own political party, En Marche! (“On the Move!”), and will run as an independent, centrist candidate in 2017. Similar rhetoric to what was seen during the US POTUS race is beginning to be seen in France -- people fear that by running as an Independent, Macron will steal votes away from candidates of the long established parties.

In a recent speech, Macron called for a “democratic revolution,” promising to move the country away from what he called an obsolete and clan-based political system. Macron is another candidate positioning himself as an outsider, which may aid him in his bid for president. The Atlantic notes that "The former investment banker was virtually unknown in French politics before 2014, when he was appointed the minister of economy, industry, and digital affairs by Prime Minister Manuel Valls."

Macron faces a difficult race ahead against the establishment. However, if recent history has taught us anything, it is not to discount unexpected candidates. Will recent sentiments be enough to position Macron ahead of both the establishment as well as popular Populist candidate La Pen? Only time will tell, however; the real economic experience of Macron is likely to set him apart during the 2017 race.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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