France’s youngest president wins again, trouble and all

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PARIS (AP) — In just five years as president of France, Emmanuel Macron has gone from a young political novice to a key global player and heavyweight decision-maker in the European Union who has been deeply involved in the efforts to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

And now he has won a second term, the first French president to do so in a generation.

The 44-year-old outspoken centrist, with his relentless diplomatic activism, does not always achieve his ends but has earned his place on the international stage. He is expected to return to his work on Ukraine.

At home, Macron has managed to regain some popularity after ‘yellow vest’ protests against social injustice sent his approval to record highs in 2018. Opinion polls indicate that many French people praise his presidential stature and consider it up to the task of dealing with major global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.

They also show that he is often seen as arrogant and out of touch with ordinary people.

Macron was notably nicknamed “president of the rich”, especially during the yellow vests crisis. Some critics also point to a perceived authoritarian attitude, holding him responsible for violent incidents involving the police during street protests.

The office of president is his first elected office, although he came with a strong pedigree.

Macron studied at the National School of Administration, an elite French school, and he was a senior civil servant, then a banker at Rothschild for a few years, then an economic adviser to socialist President François Hollande.

He emerged from this role behind the scenes of the political scene when he served as economy minister in the Hollande government from 2014 to 2016.

A series of political surprises – including a corruption scandal involving a key rival – propelled Macron to presidential victory in 2017. He easily beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in their run-off that year on promises to liberate the French economy to stimulate job creation and attract foreign investment. He beat her again on Sunday, but the race was tighter and Macron admitted that some voters had backed him only to prevent Le Pen from taking the presidency.

Macron, who describes himself as “a president who believes in Europe”, says the EU is France’s way of being stronger in a globalized world.

A strong advocate of entrepreneurship, he relaxed rules for hiring and firing workers and made it harder to get unemployment benefits. Critics accuse it of destroying worker protections.

Then the pandemic hit, and he recognized the crucial role of the state in supporting the economy, spending massively and pledging to support workers and businesses through state aid “whatever the cost”. .

At his biggest campaign rally near Paris earlier this month, Macron paid a moving tribute to his wife, Brigitte, the person “who I care about the most”. They could be seen on the giant screens of the stadium kissing.

On Sunday evening, they arrived hand in hand at the square near the Eiffel Tower where Macron delivered his victory speech.

As first lady, Brigitte Macron, 24 years her senior, has been involved in charities and other programs promoting culture, education and health.

Their romance began when he was a high school student where she taught in northern France. At the time married with three children, she oversaw the drama club. Macron, a lover of literature, was a member.

Macron moves to Paris for his final year of high school. She eventually moved to the French capital to join him and divorced. They married in 2007.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the French elections at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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