Opinion

Now Macron really is the president of the rich

PARIS — Forget Emmanuel Macrons idea of a “Jupiterian” presidency. The French leader has become an Achilles, an all-conquering hero with a potentially fatal, hidden weakness.

Macron has been playing a dangerous game: By turning last weeks European Parliament election into a duel with the far right, he turned his party into the only alternative to the populists.

This strategy, which allows Macron to suck votes from the center left and center right, has led a number of pundits to already predict his victory in 2022, when France goes back to the polls to elect a new president.

But look at the small print of how and where people voted in last weeks election, and youll see why Macrons strategists should instead be worried. The resignation on Sunday of Laurent Wauquiez, the leader of the center-right Les Républicains party, is another clue.

The obvious — but insufficient — answer to the question of who “won” the European election last week, is Marine Le Pen. The far-right leaders National Rally took 23.3 percent of the vote, just ahead of Macrons “Renaissance” list with 22.4 percent.

Head candidate of the Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) green list Yannick Jadot | Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

There was also an unexpected, and significant, swing to the Greens, who won 13.4 percent. No other party reached double figures.

The result was embarrassing for Macron, but the real threat to his presidency lies elsewhere. Like Achilles, he is vulnerable in an unexpected way.

Although Macrons 2019 voter base (22.4 percent) is almost exactly the same size as his 2017 voter base (24.1 percent), the difference is that his party is no longer Frances “new center.” It is metamorphosing into a new center right.

In commune after commune, Macron racked up high scores in well-heeled, bourgeois areas that until recently were the fiefdoms of conservative heavyweights and former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.

In 2017, Macron was, in spirit at least, the candidate of a young, optimistic, aspirational France. Exit polls last Sunday showed a shift in Macrons voter base from the center to the center right, from the aspirational to the wealthy, from the young to the old.

A survey of voters by Ipsos-Sopra Steria showed that 27 percent of people who voted for the center right in the first round in 2017s presidential election decided to cast their ballot for Macron in last weeks European election. Simultaneously, 14 percent of Macron first-round voters cast their ballot for the Greens and 11 percent went with the center left.

His highest score in last weeks election — 33 percent — was among people over 70, as younger, metropolitan ex-Macron voters moved to the Greens in droves. He lost 6 percentage points among 18- to 24-year-olds and 11 points among voters aged 25 to 34.

Most strikingly, Macrons list piled up scores over 40 percent in wealthier western arrondissements of Paris and suburbs like Neuilly-sur-Seine, the wealthiest commune in France. The poorer, younger, more bourgeois-bohemian eastern parts of Paris migrated massively from Macron to the Greens and the center left.

The danger is that his new base — the 20 percent plus that hell need to reach the second round of the presidential vote in 2022 — no longer fits the trade description of Macronism, which, like him, is supposed to be young, energetic and mold-breaking.

This is what makes him uniquely vulnerable: His base is at risk of being squeezed if Les Républicains — the “old center right” that his election nearly annihilated — comes back to life ahead of the presidential election.

The old conservative-Gaullist party may not look like much of a threat at the moment. The political family that dominated French politics for 60 years until Macrons victory in 2017 got a lamentable 8.48 percent of the vote in last weeks election.

But Macron cant rest easy.

Laurent Wauquiez has quit as leader of Les Republicains | Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

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