STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - France is sick because politicians throw taxpayers money at problems instead of addressing them properly, presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday as he set out a first batch of ideas to reform the country’s political system.
The former economy minister who quit President Francois Hollande’s government this summer slammed the whole political class for failing to reform a country struggling with endemic unemployment and shaken by deadly attacks.
“When politics is no longer a mission but a profession, politicians become more self-serving than public servants,” Macron told a rally of more than a 1,000 people in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
The one-time investment banker, who rose to prominence as an adviser to Hollande and then a minister in his government who advocated in vain for bolder reforms, was addressing the first of three rallies outside Paris.
Although he has yet to say whether he will run for president in next year’s elections, the rallies are his platform for unveiling his so-called “diagnosis” for the country.
On the day the Socialist government ordered 21 high-speed trains in a pre-election bid to preserve jobs at a struggling locomotive plant, Macron also criticised the knee-jerk reactions of French politicians.
“The only way governments or would-be governments respond to ills these days is by seeking to lower the temperature... and that tends to mean public spending,” he told reporters in a briefing ahead of the rally.
“We can’t fix the real problems if we only cauterise and don’t treat the roots of evil,” he added.
Macron’s aides said it was too early to announce a full manifesto, but that he wanted to use the results of a door-to-door campaign in which hundreds of volunteers collected voters’ grievances this summer to first explain what he thinks is wrong in France.
In Tuesday’s first instalment focused on the political system, the 38-year old said he was in favour of introducing more proportional representation in electing France’s lawmakers, even if that means letting in more far-right or far-left MPs.
He said he also wanted to speed up France’s lawmaking process, make ministers more accountable to parliament, and possibly create a committee filled with randomly chosen citizens who could grill the president regularly.
He also said ministers and lawmakers should only be appointed if they have a clean criminal record, a thinly veiled criticism of the leading conservative candidate in opinion polls, former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, who in 2004 was handed a suspended jail sentence for corruption.
That went down well with members of the public. “What I really liked was his talk about probity in politics,” 27-year-old insurance employee Adelaide Vassor said after the rally.
“I don’t think he’ll make it in 2017. The country is too sclerotic, but if we can influence mainstream parties in five or 10 years, that’s interesting.”
Since Macron resigned last August, government and opposition politicians have branded him a “traitor” and called his policies “populist light”.
Hardly known to the public two years ago, he has risen to become one of France’s most popular politicians.
With poll after poll showing far-right leader Marine Le Pen assured of getting to the second round but losing the runoff in May to whoever faces her, Socialists and conservatives realise Macron’s pitch for the middle ground could cost them the remaining place.
Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Andrew Callus and Lisa Shumaker