French President Emmanuel Macron announces he will seek a second term in office at elections next month, with Russia's war in Ukraine likely to eclipse the campaign but boost his chances.

Polls suggest Macron is favourite to win in the contest with conservative candidate Valerie Pecresse and two far-right figures, Marine le Pen and Eric Zemmour.
Polls suggest Macron is favourite to win in the contest with conservative candidate Valerie Pecresse and two far-right figures, Marine le Pen and Eric Zemmour. (Reuters Archive)

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would run for a second term in April's elections, seeking a mandate to steer the Euro zone's second-largest economy through the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Macron announced his bid on Thursday in a letter published by several regional newspapers.

If he succeeds, he would be the first French leader for two decades to win a second term in office.

"We have not achieved everything we set out to do. There are choices that, with the experience I have gained from you, I would probably make differently," Macron said in the letter, listing the different crises he had to face over the past five years, including militant attacks, Covid, riots and war.

He defended his record, pointing to unemployment at a 15-year low. 

"I am a candidate to defend our values that are threatened by the disruptions of the world," he added.

READ MORE: Ahead of election, Macron bets on rosy French economy

Ukraine war

Macron acknowledged that the election would not be a normal one due to Russia's war on Ukraine.

"Of course, I will not be able to campaign as I would have liked because of the context," he said while vowing to "explain our project with clarity and commitment".

Without giving a detailed manifesto, Macron said he would continue to cut taxes and push for the French to work more, suggesting a return of abandoned pension reform. 

He also hinted at a reform of the education system, saying teachers should be freer and paid better.

Macron enters the presidential race just a month or so before the election's first round on April 10. Opinion polls project that he is favourite to win a contest that sees multiple challengers on the right and left fragmenting the vote.

The Ukraine war has already upended the campaign, complicating Macron's entry into the race and leaving two far-right contenders who had so far performed strongly in polls to justify their hitherto pro-Russia, pro-Putin stance.

With Macron at the forefront of European efforts to secure a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the conflict, a campaign with fewer rallies by the incumbent and an unusual focus on foreign policy lies ahead.

Macron, who has spoken on the phone with Putin 11 times this year, has said he would continue as the war rages on and acknowledged in the letter he will not be able to campaign as he would have liked because of the war.

READ MORE: Russia: French proposals could form basis to end standoff with Ukraine

Support for Macron

That may not hurt his chances. 

Voter surveys have shown a bounce in support for Macron as far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour revise their views on relations with Moscow and amid an outpouring of sympathy for Ukrainian refugees.

Macron became France's youngest leader since Napoleon five years ago, pitching himself as a political outsider who would break the old left-right dichotomy, make France more investor-friendly and make the EU stronger.

He cut taxes for big business and the wealthy, loosened labour laws and marketed France Inc. as a start-up nation, but anti-government 'yellow vest' protests and then the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to slow his reform plans.

READ MORE: Eric Zemmour: A nexus between French populism and political Christianity

Source: Reuters