By William Horobin
PARIS--France's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday he will run for president in the spring, seeking to harness a rejection of the country's political system he has likened to the outcry that swept Donald Trump to victory.
Mr. Macron said France has left the path of progress because the country's political system is blocked by the inertia of parties and corporatism. He called for a "democratic revolution" that would surpass both left and right-wing parties.
"In several months at the presidential elections there is an opportunity to refuse the status quo and advance," Mr. Macron said. "I am ready."
The former investment banker's candidacy has the potential to hurt the chances of candidates from France's increasingly unpopular mainstream parties. France's traditional political parties also face a growing challenge from Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader emboldened by Mr. Trump's election victory. Polls show she would easily reach the second round of a presidential election.
Once a member of President François Hollande's Socialist government, Mr. Macron has proposed pro-business measures similar to those of the French right. His rejection of political parties and bipartisan message has resonated with the French electorate and polls show he could take around 15% of the vote in the first round of an election. While that is insufficient to get to the second round of a presidential vote, it is enough for Mr. Macron to block the path of heavyweight candidates in an increasingly crowded field.
"We can't respond to the great transformation we are going through with the same men and the same ideas," Mr. Macron said.
The 38-year-old's announcement ends a long period of suspense. In April, while still serving as economy minister, he founded his own bipartisan political movement En Marche, citing frustrations with the inertia of Mr. Hollande's government. At the first En Marche rally in July, Mr. Macron told thousands of supporters they would carry the movement together "to 2017 and through to victory." At the end of August, Mr. Macron quit the government, underscoring a break with his mentor Mr. Hollande and his intention to pursue his own ambitions.
Last week he began outlining initial policies based on the results of a survey of thousands of French people over the summer. The proposals include ending the 35-hour workweek for young people and wresting control of France's debt-laden unemployment welfare system from labor unions.
Mr. Macron's foray onto France's political stage has met with a frosty reception. Socialists especially have accused him of not being a team player and say his candidacy means the left will likely fail to have a candidate in the second round of the presidential elections.
"He now bears a historical responsibility," said Benoît Hamon, a leftist standing in the Socialist Party primary.
Alain Juppé, the front-runner in the conservative primary that begins Sunday, said Mr. Macron has betrayed Mr. Hollande while also sharing responsibility for the French president's failure to repair the economy and bring down unemployment.
"It is firstly a problem for the left," Mr. Juppé said of Mr. Macron's candidacy.
Ms. Le Pen pointed to Mr. Macron's past as a banker and dismissed him as another candidate from the elites.
"His candidacy poses me absolutely no problem," Ms. Le Pen said.
Write to William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 16, 2016 07:56 ET (12:56 GMT)
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