Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron will announce on Wednesday (16 November) a run for the French presidency, a source close to him said – a long-awaited move that could disrupt other campaigns on both the left and the right.
The 38-year-old former investment banker quit his job as economy minister earlier this year and has set up his own political movement called “En Marche” (Forward).
“He has made up his mind and the decision was taken a long time ago,” the source said, adding that Macron would make the announcement at a training centre north of Paris.
Despite his past role in Socialist President François Hollande’s government and as an adviser to him before that, Macron is not a member of the Socialist Party.
He is also not an elected politician, and commentators say his lack of a party apparatus makes him an unlikely winner.
However, as one of France’s most popular politicians, his policies take aim at the centre ground, which is also the target of Alain Juppé , the pollsters’ current favourite to become president in the two-round election next April and May.
An October poll published by Odoxa put Macron at the top of a list of potential presidents from the left, with 49% considering him a good head of state. Valls came second on 42% while Hollande was out of the running on 13%, behind several others.
Among Socialist voters, Valls came first on 70% with Macron in second place on 50%.
Macron’s widely-expected intervention comes just days before the first round of the primaries of the Les Républicains party and its centre-right allies on Sunday.
Juppé’s main rival to win that contest is former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has positioned himself to ex-prime minister Juppé’s right in an attempt to capture voters worried about immigration and security.
Opinion polls in recent months have shown that whoever wins the Le Républicains ticket will face and beat Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, in the second round of the election proper next May.
But the battle is a complex one.
New doubts have emerged about the accuracy of opinion polls since Britons voted unexpectedly to quit the European Union and Donald Trump won the US presidency, particularly with regard to the populist voters to whom Sarkozy and Le Pen have appealed.
In addition, left-wing voters are widely expected to gatecrash the Les Républicains primaries, voting in large numbers for Juppé to avoid a Sarkozy-Le Pen choice in next year’s election proper. French voters can cast ballots in the primaries whether they are party members or not.
Macron aides have said he will not take part in January’s Socialist primaries, but he could make further inroads on those voters who still favour the deeply unpopular Hollande for a second term, or who plan to vote for Prime Minister Manuel Valls should Hollande decide not to run and Valls take his place.
That would further split the vote in an already crowded Socialist primaries field.