Is he Machiavelli, Bonaparte or de Gaulle? Emmanuel Macron wrote a thesis about the first, is often compared to the second and frequently cites the third.
That parlor game playing out in the French media, as France tries to figure out its new president, demonstrates one thing: Mr. Macron has already concentrated all the power, nearly by default.
He rarely speaks to the press, limits public appearances and has helped candidates who support his agenda win a majority in the National Assembly.
Mr. Macron insists that his intensive assembling of the tools of power is not an end in itself, and the sense of direction, energy and renewal has been welcomed by French citizens who have longed for greater authority in Paris after the weak presidency of his predecessor, François Hollande.
But it has also led some critics to accuse Mr. Macron of “authoritarian” tendencies. A weekly newsmagazine’s cover called him “Jupiter.” The hyperbole has been widely mocked. But few doubt that Mr. Macron has assumed the role of master string-puller, operating from a political planet he has created for himself.
France’s rigid labor code, which Mr. Macron says kills jobs, will be revamped by decree, largely bypassing Parliament. Much of the antiterrorism state of emergency, in force since the November 2015 terrorist attacks and opposed by civil liberties advocates, will be permanently enshrined in law.
Such quick, bold steps have begun to sow questioning, even unease. The latest demonstration of what some are characterizing as a Napoleonic style was Mr. Macron’s announcement that he would address both houses of Parliament in the regal setting of Versailles on Monday.
It will be his show alone, without the intermediary of the press — he has given one newspaper interview since his election on May 7 — while upstaging his own prime minister, backed solely by the gold and mirrors of Versailles, and facing solo 925 lawmakers, many obliged to him.
“It’s a signal, an affirmation that he is the country’s ultimate pilot,” said Gilles Savary, a veteran Socialist politician recently defeated in his parliamentary re-election bid by one of Mr. Macron’s novice candidates.
The joke is now on those who mocked the title of Mr. Macron’s campaign book, “Revolution,” when it appeared last fall.
“It’s a very personalized way of wielding power, very Bonapartist,” Mr. Savary said.
And that is how Mr. Macron is exercising power, floating above the institutions beneath him and advancing a government project that is all about concentrating authority, both in form and in substance.
It is a direct echo of the Napoleonic tactic of keeping opponents off balance by always being on the offensive. Power in France is flowing back to the center — Mr. Macron. “It is him that administers,” Mr. Savary said. “It’s hypercentralized.”
On the security front, exceptional measures — particularly searches and seizures and house arrests — will now essentially be decided by Mr. Macron’s Interior Ministry, with little review from the judicial branch.
France’s public defender of civil liberties, the former justice minister Jacques Toubon, has denounced the Macron government’s effort, as have the Paris bar and others, for infringing on the rights of citizens.
Yet, like him or not, the consensus seems to be that the new president possesses ruthlessness, cunning and tactical skill, all at once. “M as in Macron or Machiavelli,” read one recent headline in Le Monde.
“There’s a little bit of mystery about him,” Mr. Savary said — perhaps an echo of the Machiavellian precept that leaders are not bound to reveal too much.
“He wants to be both lion and fox,” said Jean-Yves Boriaud, a Machiavelli specialist at the University of Nantes. “Machiavelli said the two must coexist. This is enlightening. Authority and ruse.”
The ambitions are grandiose. His coming to power is “the beginning of a French renaissance and I hope a European one as well,” he said in the interview, with Le Figaro and other European newspapers. “A renaissance that will permit the rethinking of great national, European and international equilibriums.”
The far-left France Unbowed movement and its Communist allies are boycotting Monday’s speech at Versailles, calling Mr. Macron “pharaoh-like.”