The gambit is a well-known opening move in the chess game. The player makes a sacrifice, typically a pawn, for the sake of a compensating advantage. Emmanuel Macron metaphorically did that in the first six months of his presidency. In the run-up to the presidential election, the political neophyte introduced himself as neither left-wing nor right-wing, but rather as left-wing and right-wing. It was a bold attempt to supersede the deeply entrenched left-right divide in French politics, and to take from both camps “what works best.” In so doing, Macron was able, for a short period of time, to defy political gravity and position himself as an ideal centrist candidate.
What’s more, the 39-year old candidate was untested politically, a young bright figure with a liberal profile and background. In this respect, Macron likes to remind everyone that he was once the editorial assistant to renowned French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. Indeed, Macron is keen to be seen as the first “intellectual president” since François Mitterrand.
If Macron was a breath of fresh air in the run-up to the election, his political honeymoon with the voters did not last long. His first actions in power have marked the end of an original realignment of French politics. His economic policy blatantly leans to the right and is of a neoliberal nature. Both sides say so. Les Républicains, the party launched by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been remarkably silent since the start of the Macron presidency. They are unable to mount any significant challenge because, as some Republicans privately argue, Macron has stolen most of their policies. In short, they have virtually nothing to oppose and nowhere to go.
For political observers of French politics, Macron’s shift to the right was no major surprise. Backed by a strong 60-seat majority in the National Assembly, Macron had made no secret that, should he be elected, he would dramatically reshape France’s labour market. While running for president, Macron said that France needed “a shock of trust, a real acceleration.” He has all the constitutional power to pass any legislation he wishes to put forward. From a constitutional point of view, the French president, even called a “republican Monarch,” is the most powerful of any Western democracy (including the U.S).