Macron Demands Bolder Reforms From Hollande as Elections Loom

Are More Radical Reforms Needed in France?
  • Hollande is shifting his focus to re-election from reforms
  • Economy minister wants tougher, more ground-breaking changes

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron urged his boss to press ahead with reforms, claiming that they need to be much more radical if a defeat is to be avoided in the 2017 presidential elections.

“We need much more radical reforms,” Macron said in an interview in Davos. “If we don’t deliver on reforms, it will become part of the next presidential campaign.”
 
For Macron, the commitment to fix what ails the French economy, which is trailing behind much of Europe, is a matter of personal credibility. Having written President Francois Hollande’s economic platform for the 2012 election, devised a plan to lower taxes on business and labor and increased the flexibility of rules on job cuts and Sunday shopping, he doesn’t want the looming elections to scupper the progress the Socialist government has made.

While popular among younger voters and non-Socialists, the minister’s free-market bent isn’t universally popular in his Socialist camp and is a potential liability for Hollande in the run-up to the 2017 vote. The specter of losing power next year prompted Hollande to take planned major changes to labor laws out of Macron exclusive purview and hand it to a more junior minister, who has suggested she may water down the reforms.

Increasingly Outspoken

Macron is increasingly outspoken about his disagreement with Hollande’s policy choices.

The 38-year-old minister considered resigning if Hollande proved unwilling to press ahead with reforms in the last year of his presidency, according to a front-page report in Le Parisien newspaper Sunday. Although he quashed that speculation in the Bloomberg Television interview, Macron didn’t shy away from his policy agenda or from showing signs of exasperation.

“I push reforms, I tell the truth to people, even when it’s tough for the country,” he said. “And i think that people just wait for that, they love that,” he said, when asked about his presidential ambitions. A Jan. 16 Odoxa poll shows Macron is the most eligible candidate for the Socialist Party to win the 2017 presidential elections, way ahead of Hollande.

“Popularity isn’t an objective in itself, I’m not in this game," Macron said Friday. “I’m not a movie star and I don’t want to become a movie star.”

Hollande’s Plan

Hollande this week said France faces an “employment emergency” and pledged to address it. Within hours, his remedy was panned in the press as an attempt to save his own job.
 
France’s unemployment rate stands at 10.6 percent, roughly twice that of the U.K. and Germany. For Macron, the key to a presidential victory lies in reforming labor rules.
The ambitious minister sent a veiled warning to his boss: 

“I think he will announce more and I’ll push very much forward to do so because I think if we don’t do so we will make a mistake,” he said.

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