Obama Takes Stand Against Populist Candidate In French Election

His support of centrist Emmanuel Macron is his first endorsement since leaving office.

Former President Barack Obama officially threw his support behind French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in a video released on Thursday.

“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office again,” Obama said. “But the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about.”

Macron, a centrist and relative political novice, created his own political party last year called “En Marche!” ― or “Onward!” He comes from an investment banking background and worked as current French President François Hollande’s finance minister before breaking away to run for higher office.

Obama highlighted Macron’s liberal values and commitment to the European Union in his message.

Macron is up against Marine Le Pen, former leader of the far-right National Front. She has run on a platform of nationalism and populism, appealing to some of the anti-immigrant and anti-EU anxiety that’s seeped into France in recent years. The country has suffered from a stagnant economy and is battling an ongoing terrorist threat.

This is the first official endorsement Obama has made since leaving office. He and Macron spoke on the phone on April 20, according to the French candidate’s tweets.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also endorsed Macron “because he stands for a consistent, pro-European policy,” she said in an interview published Wednesday.

Macron is expected to win the French presidency, polling at 61 percent in the latest poll from Les Echos and Radio Classique. He and Le Pen will face off in the second and final round of the elections on May 7.

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