Obama Endorses French Presidential Candidate Macron

World

Barack Obama has cast a hypothetical vote in the French presidential election with a last-minute endorsement of Emmanuel Macron. Macron, a centrist, faces Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National in a tight race. With voting on Sunday, Obama’s endorsement could very well be the intervention Macron needs to edge ahead of his populist opponent.

In a video tweeted by Macron on Thursday, the former US president declared his support because of the importance of this election.

“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office but the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” Obama stated in English with French subtitles.

The polls put Macron 20 points ahead of Le Pen, but many have likened this French election to the US election back in November, with polls and media focusing on one candidate while a populist candidate is pounding the pavement and garnering unexpected levels of support. That may be why Obama felt the need to step in, given the current political climate of the US. He said that Macron “stood for liberal values” and “put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world,” adding in how he admired the way Macron “appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears.”

‘Appealing to hopes and not fears’  was an obvious reference to Le Pen, who has run a campaign capitalizing on people’s fear, racism, and a protectionist stance for France. Before leaving the White House, Obama said he would intervene in public life again when “our core values may be at stake.” Charles Kupchan, former special assistant on Europe during the Obama administration, believes Europe’s fate involved those core values. “[Former] President Obama was very concerned about the political trajectory of the European Union, particularly after the refugee crisis of 2015. He became quite seized with helping to rebuild self-confidence in liberal values and practices,” said Kupchan, now a professor at Georgetown University.

Obama flew to London in April 2016 to urge Britons to “stick together” with the EU, but his opinion failed to derail Brexit. His lack of sway during that crucial campaign does not bode well for his endorsement now, especially given recent terrorist incidents in Europe. Obama remains relatively popular in France, but his endorsement could motivate Le Pen voters who are anti-elite, anti-American or even racist to become more outspoken and passionate about beating Macron.

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