The Political Year Ahead 2022: The French presidencies

The next six months are set to be particularly interesting from a political point of view in Europe. We’ve asked consultants from across our European offices to give there view on how this political environment may play out. With new leadership in Germany, the UK leadership coming under increasing pressure and all of this to the backdrop of French presidential elections coinciding with their presidency of the EU and continued wrangling over article 16 – there are many angles to consider. We turned to Antoine Clément for his take on how things are shaping up for France and the knock on effect this may have for its neighbours:

The year 2022 will be a particularly important year for Europe given a particularly busy political agenda for one of its founding states and the continent’s second largest economy: France.

For the French President this will be the conclusion of his mandate and “en même temps” (at the same time like he often says in French) the ultimate test which will validate or not his place in history compared to his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. Macron’s re-election would be exceptional in the last 19 years. Yet this possibility is quite credible if we take into account its consistency in the polls in the last 3 months.

Nevertheless, the road to re-election is still particularly long until June 2022 and we must keep in mind that France will assume the presidency of the EU (Présidence Française de l’Union Européenne (PFUE)) from January 2022. So, we can speak of 2 presidencies which overlap but which will have an indisputable impact on each other.

A “PFUE” with reduced opportunities

On December 9, Emmanuel Macron presented his main areas of work for the PFUE, which are European sovereignty, sustainable growth and the promotion of European values. It is also clear that the President has by no means given up on the federal orientation and his integrated vision of the EU. Further, France will play a leading role in addressing issues such as migration, security, finance, ecology and employment.

However, the presidential campaign will gain momentum and the President will have to concentrate his efforts from February at the latest to deploy his campaign in France. It is therefore reasonable to think that the PFUE will not take major risks that could threaten Macron’s candidacy.

Ultimately, the opportunities for the PFUE to shape the evolution of EU policies will be profoundly reduced from February even if the President will host in Paris various events for the PFUE such as the summit with the African Union in February or the one dedicated to Sustainable Growth 2030 in March.

Macron and the others

Certainly Emmanuel Macron will stand for re-election. In this case, the polls put him in first position at the end of the first round of the presidential elections which will take place on April 10, 2022. Subject to the reliability of the polls and the risk inherent in politics, the qualification of Emmanuel Macron in the second round is very likely. On the other hand, it is his future opponent for the second and final round who seems the most uncertain. 3 candidates are competing for the place of last challenger: Valérie Pécresse from the center-right, Marine Le Pen from the far right and Eric Zemmour the former political analyst who seeks to make what he calls the union of right parties.

This election, which will be full of surprises, seems less uncertain than the previous one. Firstly, because no candidate from the left seems to be able to qualify against Macron in the second round. Moreover, according to the polls, Macron will come out a winner in the second round in the majority of cases if he faces Marine Le Pen or Eric Zemmour. It is too early to confirm the electoral hopes of Valérie Pécresse after her victory in the LR congress even if just one poll suggests she might beat Macron.

In conclusion, Emmanuel Macron has a much better command of this election than in the days of Sarkozy and a fortiori of Hollande who did not even run for his re-election. The PFUE will be short because it will be curtailed by the presidential election. To win, Macron will certainly have to anticipate his role as a unifier and try to recruit major opposition figures in the center-right and center-left. Such recruitments would be very much useful to ensure a strong majority in the parliament following the next French legislative election to be held in June. From a lobbying perspective, it justifies engagement with the staff of the challengers that are politically compatible with the President.