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With eye on reelection, Emmanuel Macron sketches out plan for end of term

by editor

PARIS — With an eye on preserving his chances for reelection next year, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday attempted to incentivise his fellow countrymen and women to get the coronavirus vaccine given the impending fourth wave threatening France.

Macron has not yet formally declared he is standing in next year’s presidential election, but his televised address to the nation had all the markings of a pitch for reelection. He defended his record, repeatedly underlining all the ways he has kept his promises — including by “improving purchasing power and lowering taxes” — and set out his program for the remaining months of his term.

His speech was also an implicit recognition that his reelection bid will continue to be threatened, or at least overshadowed, by the coronavirus pandemic. A new wave could seriously weaken the economic recovery and derail his chances of winning, and so he kicked off his address by announcing new health measures to boost the plateauing vaccination drive and try to limit its effects, including making vaccines compulsory for some and requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to go to restaurants or take train rides.

But the thrust of the speech focused on setting out three themes for the rest of his term — centered on the economic recovery, reforms and social welfare — that cater to the motley crew of supporters he will need to secure a second term: center-left and center-right voters with a mind for green issues.

The speech was high in symbolism, too. Unlike his previous seven speeches since the beginning of the pandemic, which Macron delivered from the presidential palace, this time around, he had the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. That was meant to signal “hope” and “a new way forward,” according to an adviser to the president.

“The challenge that is ours is to change scales … to become once again a nation of research, innovation, agriculture and industry … to reconcile growth with green production,” Macron said in laying out his plan for economic recovery.

He also signaled how he plans to use France’s presidency of the EU — which coincides with the last six months of his term and what will be the height of the presidential campaign — to further buttress his push for strategic autonomy, launched at the height of the crisis when France was confronted with its crippling dependence on Chinese production of masks and other necessary protective gear.

“On the European level, the French presidency of the European Union, which will start on January 1, 2022, will allow us to build a common agenda of industrial and technological independence,” Macron said.

In signature Macron fashion, he straddled both left- and right-wing policies. He stressed fiscally conservative views on the need to reform the social welfare system by working and innovating more and avoiding new taxation, while also emphasizing the need to support the unemployed, youth and seniors.

But in a notable punt, Macron promised to go forward with a long-postponed and highly controversial pension reform, while also making that move conditional on the pandemic subsiding and growth picking up again.

He ended his address with what sounded like the beginnings of a campaign speech.

“In the fall, we have a date with our future. To build an independent France … a conquering France that believes in its youth, and doesn’t fear the future but rather invents it. A united France,” Macron said.

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