Who’s who in the crowded field vying to unseat Macron in French presidential election

Who's who in the crowded field vying to unseat Macron in French presidential election
Will Emmanuel Macron keep his Elysee office in 2022? Photo: SARAH MEYSSONNIER / POOL / AFP
An increasingly crowded field of candidates are vying to challenge Emmanuel Macron for the French presidency in elections next year. Here's a quick guide to the declared and rumoured candidates.

Macron, in power since 2017, has not officially declared his candidacy for a second term – although it widely thought to be unlikely that he would not stand.

Across the political spectrum many high profile figures have already declared their candidacies, while others are thought highly likely to enter the race and several of the bigger parties are still going through the process of choose their candidates.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand the 2022 French presidential election

Here’s your guide to some of the big names in the race:


Marine Le Pen – Rassemblement National

The leader of the far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally, formerly the National Front) officially launched her candidacy at a rally in Fréjus, south east France, on September 12th, although she had previously said that she would stand.

Current polling shows that she and Macron are still the most likely candidates to reach the second round of the elections, although her party has fared badly in recent local elections and some in the party have raised questions over her leadership.

Her platform has focused on immigration, crime and security.

READ ALSO Language tests and deportation for the unemployed – what a Le Pen presidency could mean for foreigners in France

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Xavier Bertrand poses in front of the Arena of Nimes. Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Xavier Bertrand – Les Républicains 

The leader of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France was one of the very first to declare back in March, boosted by strong results in regional elections.

Bertrand, who has previously been a minister for the centre-right Les Républicains, initially stated that he would not take part in a primary to choose a single contender and could run as an independent, but later confirmed that he will take part in the party’s congress in December where the official LR candidate will be chosen.

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Michel Barnier – Les Républicains

The EU’s former Brexit negotiator announced his candidacy in August, immediately striking out territory on the right by saying he wanted a France that was “respected” as well as a moratorium on non-EU immigration.

Barnier, 70, won respect for his deft handling of the difficult Brexit talks, although it remains to be seen whether he could transfer these skills to the rough-and-tumble of a campaign.

He has stated that he will stand in a primary for LR, so his candidacy is likely to depend on winning the vote within his own party first.

Valérie Pécresse – Les Républicains

The head of the greater Paris Île-de-France region announced her candidacy in July, saying she wanted to “restore French pride”.

She too has confirmed that she will take part in the congress in December to choose the LR candidate.

The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo speaks in Rouen on September 12 as she announced that she plans to run for president. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

Anne Hidalgo – Parti Socialiste

The Socialist Party (PS) has been floundering since the one-term (2012-2017) presidency of François Hollande, who ended up so unpopular he did not even try to seek a second mandate.

Some believe Paris mayor Hidalgo could yet be its saviour, but after declaring her candidacy she will have to lift single-figure polling ratings. She does at least have the support of party members, who officially voted to nominate Hidalgo as their candidate on October 14th.

Although her green and car-free policies proved popular enough to win her a second term as mayor of Paris in 2020, she may struggle to shed her image as ‘too Parisian’ for the rest of France (although she actually grew up in Lyon with Spanish parents).

Arnaud Montebourg – L’Engagement

The former minister under Hollande entered the fray in September, vowing a remontada (rebound) for France.

Seen as to the left of Hidalgo but more moderate than Jean-Luc Melenchon, he ran in left-wing presidential primaries in 2011 and 2017 but failed to win a nomination. This time, he has said he will run for the top job without seeking the Socialist Party nomination. Montebourg is backed by the new movement L’Engagement, named after a book he released in 2020.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon – La France Insoumise

The leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party was fast into the starting blocks and declared his candidacy months ago.

Analysts believe he may struggle to match his effort from the 2017 edition where he was a major factor in the campaign and polled almost 20 percent in the first round.

Yannick Jadot – Greens

Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) or the Green party held a primary to choose its candidate and party members plumped for MEP Jadot.

His task now is to transfer the dazzling success the Greens enjoyed in 2020 local elections, where they picked up several big city halls, to the national level.

Likely to declare

Emmanuel Macron – La République en Marche

The current incumbent has not yet declared that he intends to run, but analysts think it highly likely that he will.

A divisive figure in France he is nevertheless topping current polling, with opinion polls predicting a second round match between him and Le Pen, with Macron winning (although a lot can change in eight months and opinion polls are not always reliable). His current personal poll ratings hover at about 35 percent – which is unusually high for a French president this far into his term. 

His party LREM, however, has failed to gain grassroots support and polled badly in local and European elections.

Far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour is yet to formally declare his candidacy. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Eric Zemmour – far-right independent

The TV pundit has won a major following for his diatribes against migration and the Muslim headscarf. He has yet to confirm plans to stand but could decide to challenge Le Pen’s far-right hegemony.

Zemmour, boosted by an appeals court acquittal on September 8th over charges of inciting racial hatred, could choose a tour to promote his new book to announce his intentions.

Not running

Edouard Philippe

Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced September 11, 2021, that he would give his “full” support to President Emmanuel Macron for the 2002 presidential election. Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

The former prime minister – who lost his job in July 2020 in a cabinet reshuffle after reportedly becoming too popular for his own good – had been considered as a possible candidate to challenge his former boss for the top job.

However on September 11th he formally declared that he would not stand, and would be supporting Macron in the 2022 race.

He has, however, launched his own political group – Horizon – with the declared aim of supporting Macron. He is widely believed to be preparing for a run at the Elysée in 2027. 

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