He has been accused of being gay, an accusation which in France would usually only provoke a smile. Still, Emmanuel Macron, a centrist former economy minister and ex-banker felt obliged to kill rumors of a gay relationship outside his marriage to Brigitte Trogneux (24 older than him) and push his presidential campaign on.
“If you’re told I lead a double life with Mr Gallet it’s because my hologram has escaped,” Macron told supporters, referring to Radio France chief executive Mathieu Gallet, with whom he has been accused of having a relationship.
Macron puzzles non-French observers. His discourses are too long and full of platitudes; he doesn’t seem to have a real program, but a mixture of elements from both left and right; his passage through the government of Manuel Valls was a failure, but he seems keen to encourage a personality cult around himself. He is young, only 39, a former Socialist, and he now promotes capitalism, but wants to keep the national extravagant and dispendious social programs.
He seems more and more to approach the moment when he will win the French presidency. Opinion polls show Macron ahead of François Fillon in the first round of the election, but only by a few percentage points, and behind Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front. Only the top two candidates go through to a second round on May 7. Polls show that Macron would beat Le Pen with about two thirds of the vote and that Fillon would win by a smaller, but still comfortable margin. The pollster Opinionway put Le Pen at 25 percent, Macron on 23, and Fillon on 20. It raised its prediction for the Macron vote in the second round to 66 percent from 65.
Still, in spite of his growing popularity, Macron was forced to deny that he is gay. French politics has a long history of financial and personal scandals, and the country’s media has become less shy about reporting the private life of public figures in the social media age. Revelations about the love child of former President François Mitterrand took years to come out in the press, even though the facts were widely known by journalists while he was in power between 1981 and 1995.
But photographs of current president, François Hollande, arriving outside the flat of actress Julie Gayet on the back of a motor scooter were splashed across front pages while he was officially still in another relationship. And it was a sex-scandal that destroyed the presidential hopes of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn and gave Hollande his chance for the 2012 presidency.
Macron worked for the Rothschild bank and married his teacher from high school, a quarter of century older than him. So difficult to define is he, that some call him “the chameleon”. In fact, he seems to have a fantastic flair, a capacity of seizing the most efficient moment. And he studied at ENA, Ecole Nationale d’Administration, the factory of the French elites.
Even the Russians now attack him, through websites close to the Kremlin. The two major French parties shot themselves in the foot, the Conservatives with the corruption scandal that splashed François Fillon, the Socialists with the utopian project of Benoît Hamon. Emmanuel Macron swiftly slid in between. He tries to avoid all political labels and nuances, thus reinforcing his chances of beating the populist Le Pen. Another paradox is that Macron was never elected. He ran France’s economy for two short years, without leaving any mark or tangible result. The political movement he created around his person is called “En Marche!”, which makes his enemies sneer: “En marche” towards what? But now, after a very modest beginning, and to general incredulity, he attracts more and more people, almost like a rock star.
In fact, he is the incarnation of the French neo-Republicanism. He doesn’t exalt patriotic virtues, like Marine Le Pen, he is no nationalist, but he wants a secular France, solidly in the middle of Europe. For the first time, a real golden-boy is shaking France and seems capable of leading it ahead.