What does it take to become President of France, in defiance of an “Age of Anger” that is sweeping across the world?
The love of the markets. Tick.
Savoir Faire. Tick.
The third — an ability to adeptly know what to do in an often tricky situation — is a key attribute of leadership. And I can testify that Emmanuel Macron has, pardon my French, gonades of steel.
The former finance minister — whose outsider political party En Marche! has stunned the political establishment in the first round of elections — has become the front-runner to become President of France in May. The 39-year-old is the last man standing against the rise and rise of right wing populist Marine Le Pen. (Read this fine analysis by Balveer Arora* to understand why this election has echoes in India).
In August 2016, my wife and I were in Paris for a few days. On one of our free evenings, we were invited out for dinner by friends. The venue was the trendy Hotel Molitor in the 16th arrondissement. Withing shouting distance of the Roland Garros tennis stadium, the Molitor is built around the city’s public swimming pool. It’s a heritage building that has been converted into a uber-cool pool and hangout zone hotel for Paris’ urban nouveau riche.
We reached the venue 15 minutes early, only to find snaking queues all around the hotel. This crowd was for a private, pay-to-get-in party hosted by a glam-girl with the name Cherie Cheri. I learnt that she would tie up with hotels, and call her “friends” for a party. The hotel makes some easy money, and she gets a cut too. Good business model, right?
But then, I digress.
Our hosts were nowhere in sight, and the hotel lobby seemed to have a somewhat distracted staff. On asking around, I figured out the reason for all the confusion: Macron had checked in!
That very day, it appears, Macron had sought an appointment with his then boss — Francoise Hollande. The young finance minister then proceeded to put in his papers, indicating the beginning of a Presidential race.
Cool as cucumber, Hollande accepted, and ordered Macron to vacate his government accommodation within 24 hours (one can’t even imagine something similar happening in Lutyens’ Delhi). The message was clear. Macron (I’m not sure his wife was there) decided to check into the hotel that very evening.
And from that Molitor hotel room, I’d like to believe, began the run for the President’s office — without ever being elected before, without party infrastructure, nothing.
Six months later, Macron is within shouting distance from the biggest job in France. Will this young man-in-a-hurry manage to stem the rise of right wing forces?