But many say his recent turn to the right won’t bring him closer to the pinch support of the Le Pen Fortress base.
“What [Macron] getting ready now, it’s just getting ready for Marine Le Pen’s major success, ”political commentator Alexis Poulin told Al Jazeera.
« [Far-right voters] clearly want to stick with the original and Macron, they only see a bogus president trying to act like he gets it.
But the motivation behind Macron’s recent actions is more complicated than that.
The next presidential vote
With 18 months to go before the next presidential elections, France’s major left and right parties have yet to present viable candidates, leaving Le Pen in line for a repeat in 2017 when she qualified for the second round.
While Le Pen ultimately lost the vote against Macron with 35-65%, the presidential party is increasingly concerned that this may change in 2022.
Record unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus is expected to be one of Macron’s biggest challenges, and he continues to struggle to shed his elitist image of ex-banker out of touch with the daily struggles of the country’s working class.
This leaves Macron facing a difficult balance, under pressure to appeal to the country’s right, but not to the point of abandoning the left.
Nonetheless, a series of controversial actions by the self-proclaimed centrist intrigued voters on both sides of the political aisle.
Two upcoming laws, in particular, left many people suspecting that Macron was indulging in the far right.
A proposal, known as the Global Security Bill, has already been passed by the lower house of parliament.
Critics are arguing over one clause in particular, which would prevent people from filming police in a way that threatens their physical or mental integrity; violators could face a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000) and one year in prison.
The second bill, which will be debated in parliament next month, is part of a broader crackdown on “extremism” and what Macron has called “Islamist separatism.”
Among other things, the law would control international funding for mosques, limit home schooling, and create a special certificate program for French imams.
Attack on freedoms
Earlier this month, 33 influential figures who voted for Macron in 2017 signed an open letter on the French investigation site Mediapart denouncing the two proposals for “a decline in freedoms of information, of opinion, of belief, education, association, demonstration and protest ”.
“Allowing this attack on our freedoms and rights is to install what the neo-fascist far right dreams of: an authoritarian state where the rule of law becomes a police state,” the letter read.
The country’s far-right, by contrast, overwhelmingly supported both bills, with some calling for even tougher measures.
“We don’t treat the causes. We know very well that mass immigration leads to the withdrawal of the community ”, declared the spokesperson of the National Rally, Sébastien Chenu, on the French radio France Info, questioned on the proposal of“ separatism ”.
“Slow progress will not meet the immense challenge. France is no longer faced with mere ‘separatism’, but with communitarianism of conquest, ”National Rally vice president Jordan Banealla said of the proposal earlier this year.
Following two horrific attacks, including the beheading of a schoolteacher near Paris followed by three fatal stab wounds in a church in the southern city of Nice, public support for a law that claims to fight “extremism” remains high.
But to truly capture the far-right vote, Macron would have to take an even stronger stance on immigration.
Something he doesn’t want to do, says Jean-Yves Camus, political scientist specializing in the far right.
“He can never serve that sort of thing to his center-left supporters,” Camus told Al Jazeera.
Due to his centrist position, Camus says Macron cannot succeed in capturing votes from the far right or the far left.
“There are too many big differences and so many things they don’t agree on, especially when it comes to globalization, the European Union and immigration policy.”
Camus says Macron’s latest initiatives should instead be seen as a call to more traditional French conservatives.
But even some members of the traditional right have shown restraint.
Four members of the Republicans (LR) abstained in Tuesday’s vote on the global security bill, after police were filmed with excessive force during the dismantling of a protest refugee camp on the Place de la République in central Paris.
Widespread public fury over the law escalated days later, when surveillance footage caught three police officers brutally beating a black music producer as he entered his Paris studio.
The victim, Michel Zecler, later said he also suffered a series of racist insults from the police.
In a Facebook post, Macron said the images made us “ashamed”, adding that he called on the government to come up with proposals that “reaffirm the link that must naturally exist between the French and those who protect them”.
Meanwhile, thousands of people came across the country over the weekend to protest the bill.
In Paris, demonstrators were sprayed with tear gas after throwing fireworks at the police.
Le Pen, meanwhile, voted in favor of the law in Tuesday’s National Assembly vote, calling for this “protection” to be extended to military forces.
Macron is not Le Pen
Given the widespread backlash, analysts suspect that the text of this bill is unlikely to remain in its current form.
But the influence of the far right in the security and “separatism” proposals cannot be underestimated.
« [Macron] creates policies that Le Pen would never even dream of, ”Poulin told Al Jazeera.
But despite all his so-called pimping, Macron is not Le Pen. And that could very well be his saving grace in the next presidential election, according to Camus.
“You have to keep in mind that many people in this country will be voting for the man who can just prevent Marine Le Pen from winning the presidency,” Camus said.
If voters can count on Macron for anything, maybe that’s just it.