He recruited candidates online and deployed slick videos—but the leader of En Marche! still avoids the word "party"by Pauline Bock / June 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
“I want France to be a startup nation, meaning both a nation that works with and for the startups, but also a nation that thinks and moves like a startup,” declared the newly elected—and youngest ever—French president Emmanuel Macron last week at a tech conference in Paris. The statement summed up his vision, his movement, and the year he had spent setting it up from scratch after resigning from his Economy portfolio in François Hollande’s administration to rise to the presidency himself.
On Sunday night, his movement turned political party, En Marche!, swept to 350 seats in the French parliament, l’Assemblée nationale, in the second round— an “absolute” majority far above the benchmark of 289 seats. Few other political parties, let alone one created only a year ago, have won such a majority in the French parliament. Since 1958, the only organisation that has scored higher is the centre-right allied parties, who won 398 seats in 2002—the year Jacques Chirac won the presidential election in a landslide protest vote against Jean-Marie Le Pen.
This isn’t the incredible landslide pollsters had predicted, with 400 to 450 seats. But just about a year ago, En Marche! was still a start-up at the first round of funding stage. Emmanuel Macron launched the then-movement on 6 April 2016, at a close-doors (although livestreamed on YouTube) event in his local Amiens, northern France.
At the time described as a “club” or a “citizen initiative,” En Marche! was Macron’s cross-party attempt to “refound politics from the bottom”—a more conventional way of saying “make a presidential bid.” “It’s a bit of a crazy idea, I don’t know if this will work,” Macron, who was still Hollande’s Economy minister, declared at the first rally. “But we have to take the risk.” (Ironically, at the time, the word at the Elysée palace was that Macron’s movement could help Hollande win in 2017.) A savvily-edited video concluded his talk, outlining a vision in which France’s economy and society, sclerosed by immobilism, had to be reorganised in a more liberal fashion to allow French talents to bloom. Then came the brand design: “En Marche!”, matching Emmanual Macron’s initials, handwritten by the man himself. An impeccably calibrated pitch, directly inspired by the private sector where Macron had worked…