3rd Feb 2023

Barnier keen to run against Macron in French election

  • Michel Barnier has twice been an EU commissioner and held various French ministerial posts in the his long career (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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Michel Barnier, the EU's former Brexit negotiator, has said he wants to run in next year's French presidential elections.

"In these grave times, I have taken the decision and have the determination to stand … and be the president of a France that is reconciled, to respect the French, and have France respected," he said in an interview on France's TV1 broadcaster on Thursday (26 August).

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The 70-year old, centre-right politician took aim at president Emmanuel Macron's elitist image, saying France's needed a leader with "strength, vision, but also humility".

"The president must lead, bring people, set a path towards the horizon, but he cannot do everything on his own," Barnier said.

He also promised to be tough on immigration and to reform EU bureaucracy, in an environment in which the xenophobic and eurosceptic far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is neck-and-neck with Macron in opinion polls.

Barnier pledged to "restore the authority of the state" and to "limit and take control of immigration" with a five-year ban on letting in new people.

He said he would "decarbonise the economy".

And he said that his "extraordinary" experience as Brexit negotiator meant he knew how to work "with the heads of state and government [in the EU] to preserve the unity of all the European countries".

"We are in demanding times. The world around us is dangerous, unstable, fragile. Our country is doing badly," Barnier also said in French newspaper Le Figaro on Friday.

Barnier's Les Republicans (LR) party has not yet decided on its candidate for next April's vote or if it will hold a primary to do so.

The party's Xavier Bertrand, Valerie Pécresse, Bruno Retailleau, and Laurent Wauquiez had also signalled interest in running, but Wauquiez said, on Thursday, that he was bowing out.

A recent poll by Challenges, a financial weekly, said Bertrand would win 16 percent of the vote if he ran for president while Pécresse would get 13 percent.

Macron and Le Pen would get 24 percent each in the first round, the pollsters added, but Macron would defeat Le Pen by 55 percent against 45 percent in the run-off.

"With his [Barnier's] European experience, he is in the best position to see the flaws in the system. We can be pro-European and defend France," Brigitte Kuster, an LR MP, told French newspaper Le Monde on Friday.

"He [Barnier] has the ability to unite and appease a fractured country. Like [president] Joe Biden in the United States, he has the experience, the height of vision, and the international stature that one expects from a French president," Daniel Fasquelle, an LR mayor in the town of Touquet-Paris-Plage in northern France, also said.

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