Macron Must Not Behave Like Chirac If He Wins, Bertrand Warns

  • Republican politician says many will vote Macron by default
  • He says Macron needs to take into account views of such voters

Xavier Bertrand, a veteran of France’s Republican party, is putting Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner in the Sunday election, on guard.

Bertrand, who in 2015 beat the other contender for the presidency, Marine Le Pen, to become regional president of northern Hauts-de-France, in an interview said that if Macron wins he should incorporate the demands of voters who’re choosing him only to keep his far-right rival out, and not govern as if his program had their wholehearted support.

The warning is an attempt by Bertrand to avert a situation similar to the one in 2002 when center-right Jacques Chirac won 82 percent of the votes against the National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of Marine Le Pen. A large chunk of the voters had handed him a landslide victory to block the extreme-right candidate, and yet Chirac had sought to govern as if he been delivered that win on the merits of his program.

“Macron won’t be able to do like Chirac did in 2002, not taking into account the voters who voted for him but didn’t choose him,” Bertrand said in the interview. “Macron will have to listen to the French middle class, those who’re worried. They will still be there waiting for answers after the vote. One can’t say on one day ‘vote for me’ and the next day say ‘now get lost.’”

Bertrand, 52, who was a labor minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government and went back to local politics, said the next government’s priorities should be to protect France from terrorism, free up the economy and make Europe more efficient. He said the next government will have to facilitate job creation and improve people’s purchasing power.

Bertrand for PM?

Macron is leading in the polls by about 20 percentage points. In the first round of the election in April, the 39-year-old maverick centrist politician and Le Pen eliminated the two established political parties -- the Republicans and the Socialists -- that have dominated French politics for half-a-century.

“I will vote for Macron without any doubt and any misgivings,” said Bertrand, “but I remain faithful to who I am: a centre-right politician.”

Bertrand said he remains concerned by the possibility of a surprise victory for Le Pen, and is openly calling his party’s supporters to vote for Macron to block her. 

The former minister, who brushed off questions about working with Macron or being part of his government, said he will stick to his principles, adding that politicians from the right and the center of the political spectrum have the best solutions to France’s problems with what he called “a certain firmness” in handling domestic affairs.

Asked on CNews television if he would consider Bertrand for the prime ministerial role if he is elected, Macron was non-committal, saying, “Xavier Bertrand has taken very clear positions in support of my candidacy for the second round and has reaffirmed his strong political identity. He is a regional president with whom I have always worked well.”

Legislative Elections

The Republican politician, like other members of his party, has already started campaigning for the June legislative elections. A significant defeat in that vote would ring the death knell for his party. After its candidate’s ouster from the first round of the presidential vote, Bertrand said the Republican party needs “to revise its strategy” to broaden its appeal to the middle classes. 

“Victory is possible, but only if the party moves its lines,” he said.

Winning a critical number of seats in parliament is key to having a say in the next government’s policies and even participating in governance.

Political Order

Macron, who created his party En Marche -- or On the Move -- only a year ago, has said he will be looking to fill his cabinet with figures from across the ideological spectrum and from outside the ranks of professional politicians. Macron served as economy minister under Socialist President Francois Hollande, quitting last year to run for the presidency.

When asked if, like Macron, he would participate in France’s political renewal, Bertrand said “the old political order is gone,” and that he is actively pushing for the revival of his own party.

“The regional elections were a wake up call for me, I have no intention of going back to sleep,” he said, begging to end the conversation since he has a train to catch.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE