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HomeFT SelectEmmanuel Macron put to test as he takes power in France

Emmanuel Macron put to test as he takes power in France

Emmanuel Macron will formally become French president on Sunday and will immediately be put to the test by challenges from choosing a prime minister to pressing Germany to back a tougher EU stance on trade and investment.

Mr Macron, a 39-year-old Europhile pro-business centrist, is taking over a country on edge after an unpopular Socialist presidency and a rollercoaster campaign marked by the qualification of the far-right National Front candidate for the runoff round.

His election has been an extraordinary feat. Mr Macron, who had never been elected before, set up his party a year ago, stepped down from government nine months ago and announced his presidential bid six months ago. He was unknown to the public until three years ago, when Mr Hollande made him his economy minister.

Campaigning on supply-side reforms and optimism with his party, La République En Marche, which he insists is neither on the right nor on the left, Mr Macron precipitated the meltdown of the established parties from the centre-right and centre-left. In liberal, pro-EU circles, he has emerged as Europe’s bulwark against the populist tide that has brought Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump to power in the US.

As is tradition, Mr Macron will be greeted at the Elysée Palace on Sunday morning by the outgoing president — his unpopular former mentor, François Hollande. The two will spend half an hour in a private meeting at which Mr Macron will receive the access codes to the French nuclear arsenal.

He will then be awarded the Grand Cross, the highest insignia of the Legion of Honour, before delivering a speech to guests. After a military ceremony and a 21-gun salute, the new president will head to the Arc de Triomphe for a short public ceremony.

Mr Macron faces the immediate challenge of appointing a prime minister ahead of critical legislative elections in June that will put his disruptive effect on French politics to the test.

Names that have circulated for the job include Edouard Philippe, a moderate centre-right Republican and mayor of the western city of Le Havre, as well as Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of La République En Marche, a former Socialist MP and early Macron supporter.

The former would unsettle the centre-right Republican party, in disarray after the ill-fated campaign of François Fillon, but which hopes to recover by winning a large block in the National Assembly, the country’s lower house. An appointment could come as early as Sunday evening, with the cabinet expected to be disclosed on Tuesday.

On Wednesday Mr Macron’s party will reveal the full list of candidates for parliamentary elections, possibly including some figures of the centre-right. Last week the party disclosed 428 names out of 577, mostly political novices and half women.

Despite intense political manoeuvring at home, Mr Macron will fly to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, as has become the tradition for newly elected French leaders.

There, he intends to outline his plan to push the EU to adopt a tougher stance on trade and foreign investment, as he seeks to win over domestic critics calling for greater protectionism.

Mr Macron will urge the German leader to move quickly to strengthen EU anti-dumping measures and tighten control of foreign investment in strategic sectors, aides have said.

Via FT