Macron sees 'difficult' choices, refuses to confirm re-election bid

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  • Emmanuel Macron has ducked the question surrounding his future as French president.
  • Next year's election is expected to be hotly contested.
  • Macron is currently on a nationwide tour to "take the pulse" of the country ahead of next year's vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he planned to make "difficult" decisions this summer and again refused to confirm he will seek another five-year term in what is expected to be a hotly contested election next year.

"I can't manage this summer taking it easy," Macron told a group of pensioners in the southern French village of Martel as part of a nationwide tour.

"I'm going to have to make some choices, some of them difficult," adding that some could thwart a re-election bid by the 43-year-old centrist whose 2017 victory upended France's political establishment.

"It's too early to say," he answered when asked if he would run, while insisting he remains determined to "carry things out until the end."

The president has repeatedly held his cards close to his chest about the 2022 election, even as rivals including far-right leader Marine Le Pen and right-wing heavyweight Xavier Bertrand have announced their candidatures.

Other right-wingers, including former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and ex-premier Edouard Philippe could yet enter the fray before the campaign begins in earnest.

It would be a major sensation if Macron did not run and his popularity in polls - while not stellar - is respectable compared to predecessors.

Taking the pulse

Macron was on the second day of his latest nationwide tour to "take the pulse" of the country ahead of next year's vote, as well as regional elections later this month - in which his Republic on the Move party is widely expected to perform poorly.

The former investment banker swept to power with an upstart party and a pledge to enact vast reforms to unshackle the French economy and right its finances.

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His ambitious plans, including tax cuts and pension overhauls, nonetheless generated fierce protests including the "yellow vests" revolt, which accused Macron of favouring the urban elite and wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population.

The Covid crisis has further stymied his reformist drive.

Macron did not reveal what changes he had in mind for the coming months. But his own party is divided in particular on whether to carry through with the pension reform in the coming months, or put off the potentially explosive issue until after next year's vote.

'President of the rich'

Asked about France's economic prospects, Macron defended his policies, as well has his decision not to raise taxes as the country grapples with mounting debt from efforts to curtail the pain of the Covid pandemic.

"You have to produce wealth to redistribute it, something we forget too often in our country," he said. "We are the EU country that taxes the most."

"Should we massively tax the rich, an idea we seem to love? We can, but the rich will just leave!" he said.

"They call me 'president of the rich' - I couldn't care less."

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