The French elite’s silence about Le Pen is deafening

By Lionel Laurent

Emmanuel Macron has drawn sharp criticism from his party and allies after calling for early parliamentary elections expected to be won by his far-right rival Marine Le Pen. But there is a strategy to his madness. If the French are fed up enough to want radical change at the risk of poor public finances and conflict with the EU, it’s better to do it now than in 2027.

Less understood as Le Pen’s party moves closer to power is the position of the French elite. A strange silence has fallen over the years as pro-business reforms and tax forecasting threaten to turn into a Brexit-like scenario. Promises of unrealistic benefits and a lowering of the retirement age from both the far right and the far left – which are expected not to increase productivity or competitiveness and worsen budget deficits – usually cause more outcry.

Nvidia was worth more than the entire French stock market in the run-up to the election

Obviously, most CEOs don’t like the idea of ​​implicitly taking a stand against their own customers—especially when it comes to sensitive issues like immigration or unexpected taxes.

But with public finances under threat, no consultation on issues such as innovation or growth, and scapegoating from left and right, perhaps the perspective should be less. After all, few employers who routinely defend shareholder capitalism and tout their environmental and social credentials are willing to talk publicly about the policies proposed in this election. Patrick Martin, the head of Medef, told Le Figaro this week that his union sees the proposals of both Le Pen and the Left Coalition as dangerous for the French economy, but does not want to see them as extremists and offend their voters.

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Among those set to speak is Maurice Levy, the former chairman of Publicis Group SA, who warned this week that the two “extremes” were dealing with an unrealistic economy and headed for a rude awakening. Euronext NV boss Stephane Boujnah recently warned voters spurred on by Le Pen that Europe’s ability to compete with the US and China would be delayed.

All others; peace

Quiet CEOs, like quiet voters, may consider Le Pen a low-risk option. His party National Alert has continued to impress blue-chip CAC 40 employers in recent years. Increasingly, people are saying that Marin is not Jean-Marie Le Pen’s father, nor Jordan Bardela’s No. 2 destroyer of worlds. At this week’s Eurosatory Defense Department event, Bartella, 28, strode confidently past displays of dozens of deadly weapons, striking the pose of a leader-in-waiting. His sidelined statement in favor of Ukraine and his support for French NATO commitments, despite his party’s recent negative stances on both, show an absolute willingness to ditch policies to appease public opinion.

Giorgia Meloni’s dream of creating Le Pen and Bardella as the French version of Italy’s right-wing coalition – essentially combining a hard-right culture war with a constructive stance on the budget and foreign policy. This explains why one of the first big business moves was billionaire Vincent Boller’s attempt to “unite the right” by promoting an alliance between center-right Republicans and Le Pen.

However, Le Pen is no Meloney. Its populist appeal lacks the sense of compromise found in Italy’s ruling coalition. It’s one thing to assume that the French deep state can run things when chaos erupts in parliament – and another to assume that the state itself won’t be involved in the process as it is in England. With the election just 10 days away, it’s time for French businesses to clarify the current batch of expensive promises made by both parties, right and left. Otherwise, France risks inheriting Italy’s economic trends rather than its leadership.

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Performance – Editing: Stathis Ketijian

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