While France’s semi-presidential system — obviously — make French politics much more centred around certain political leaders, the ‘semi’ part ensures that it is basically impossible to get elected without a strong, well-functioning party. While Emmanuel Macron’s rise in 2017 seemed to defy this, the simultaneous rise of En Marche was actually a good example of (very) fast-paced party building, which was emphasised by En Marche’s (and its affiliates) success in the legislative elections of that year.
But one thing is true — En Marche was mainly built around the personality of Mr Macron, and it was clear from the beginning that joining the party, or even just signing one of En Marche’s petitions is mainly a signal of support for the presidential candidate; the ideology and policy positions of the party is a distant second.
While there were several defections from Macron’s party and parliamentary faction throughout the years, the party won the most votes in the 2022 legislative election. But it fell short of a clear majority, complicating things for the president, and even questioning whether Renaissance (the party’s new name) has a future after Mr Macron’s second term.
There are some warning signs for them. For example, it’s hard to define the party’s ideology clearly, as it is centred around Mr Macron’s decisions and charisma. What the president does frequently is to send messages to both sides and emphasise his centrism; this style of politics was dubbed as ‘at the same time’-politics, Mr Macron’s preferred term when he tries to have it both ways. The newest example is that while the French president fully supports Ukraine’s right to defend itself, he emphasised the need to not humiliate Russia, which angered some pro-Ukrainians. And the far-right is gaining a lot of ground even while Mr Macron is in office — if there is no clear successor, the post-Macron period in French politics might be their opening to claim the presidency.
But Macron is still keeping his allies motivated, from ministers to local activists. One of the main motivators is the constant threat of the far-right and the far-left: his allies are disciplined and motivated, as many of them feel like they are fighting and working for the French Republic’s future, instead of Macron’s or Renaissance’s, by stopping Le Pen, Mélenchon or others. And the current state of French opposition is not completely out of Mr Macron’s influence: he made several strategic decisions to elevate the more extreme parties, while weakening the traditional right and left. His pro-European politics, mixed with French greatness, is also a unique political trait that motivates his party and can be easily replicated by future presidential candidates. Being pro-European is as much of an identity as being conservative, liberal or socialist — and Macron builds on this identity a lot.
Despite these, the far-right is still a threat to them, the far-left might finally join forces for the next presidential election, and there is no clear successor to Mr Macron. It remains to be seen whether Renaissance has what it takes to become bigger than the man who founded it.
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