By Michel Rose
PARIS (Reuters) – Former conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday endorsed Emmanuel Macron ahead of the second round in France’s presidential election, in a move that may complicate Macron’s charm offensive with left-wing voters.
Sarkozy’s endorsement will certainly help the French president attract voters who backed the conservatives’ Valerie Pecresse in the first round, but could deter left-wing voters who will see a confirmation Macron is as right-wing as Sarkozy.
“I will vote for Emmanuel Macron because I think he has the necessary experience as we face a deep international crisis, more complex than ever”, Sarkozy said in a social media post.
Macron is struggling to convince working class voters to vote for him in the runoff and not far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has veered to the left on economic issues and focused her attacks on Macron on his plans to raise the retirement age.
Some in his camp fear an endorsement by Sarkozy, a reviled figure on the left for pushing through plans to raise the retirement age above 60 and for his muscular law-and-order policies, could push some of them to abstain.
“He’s a respected figure on the right but not unanimously and he remains a bogeyman for the left,” warned a former Socialist minister who has joined Macron’s camp and spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Sarkozy and Macron have got closer over the past five years, with the president often inviting his predecessor for dinner at the Elysee Palace and asking him for advice, sources have said.
For the first round, Sarkozy failed to endorse Pecresse, his own party’s candidate and a minister in his 2007-2012 government. That has pushed many in Macron’s camp and on the right to speculate that Sarkozy was preparing the ground for an alliance between the centre-right Les Republicains’ party and Macron’s LaRem.
“I think their party is going to disappear,” a source at Macron’s party told Reuters. “It’s going to be long and painful, but there will be a reorganisation and some will join us in a sort of coalition on certain issues.”
In his post on Tuesday, Sarkozy appeared to allude to that: “A new era is starting. It will require profound changes. We will need to change our habits and partisan reflexes,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Michel Rose, editing by Richard Lough, William Maclean)