Macron en­dur­ing trou­bling times amid a swirl of do­mes­tic rows and gains for far-right ri­val Le Pen

Irish Independent - - World News - Mary Fitzger­ald

EM­MANUEL Macron is hav­ing a dif­fi­cult Novem­ber in what has been a dif­fi­cult year for the man who was elected French pres­i­dent on a wave of en­thu­si­asm in 2017.

The fall­out con­tin­ues from his han­dling of a sum­mer con­tro­versy over his body­guard pos­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer and beat­ing demon­stra­tors at a May Day rally. Some weeks later min­is­ters be­gan to quit, start­ing with Ni­co­las Hu­lot, the pop­u­lar en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter who made no bones about his frus­tra­tion with the in­ner work­ings of the Macron pres­i­dency.

Af­ter that came sports min­is­ter Laura Fles­sel and then the big­gest blow, the res­ig­na­tion of in­te­rior min­is­ter Gérard Col­lomb, who com­plained to me­dia of a “lack of hu­mil­ity” within Macron’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and warned that the pres­i­dent risked iso­la­tion.

In be­tween, an MP for Macron’s party La République En Marche (REM) –which came out of nowhere to pro­pel him to the Elysée last year – also de­cided to aban­don ship and com­pared the party to the Ti­tanic.

In re­cent weeks, polls have shown Macron’s rat­ings have dipped even lower than his no­to­ri­ously un­pop­u­lar pre­de­ces­sor, François Hol­lande, while the far-right party of his main chal­lenger for the pres­i­dency – Ma­rine Le Pen – is surg­ing for­ward when it comes to next year’s Eu­ro­pean elec­tions.

Last week, ru­mours swirled over Macron’s health when he took four days off to rest in Nor­mandy. The break – amid whis­per­ings of burnout – jarred with the im­age he has shaped of him­self as the en­er­getic young pres­i­dent who gets by on four hours of sleep and has clocked up 66 over­seas trips since his in­au­gu­ra­tion.

This week, six peo­ple linked to the far-right were ar­rested as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a sus­pected plot to at­tack Macron, the sec­ond time he has been tar­geted. A self­de­scribed far-right na­tion­al­ist has been charged over a plot to as­sas­si­nate the pres­i­dent dur­ing last year’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tions.

Many ar­gue that Macron has only him­self to blame for the speed with which he has gone from neo­phyte

politi­cian lauded in France and be­yond for de­feat­ing Le Pen to un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent strug­gling to re­gain his foot­ing. One poll in Septem­ber which showed Macron’s ap­proval rat­ing had dropped to 29pc also found that ‘ar­ro­gant’ and ‘su­per­fi­cial’ were the words most fre­quently used to de­scribe him by those polled.

A re­cent op-ed in ‘Le Monde’ was damn­ing. “Macron is firstly the pres­i­dent of ur­ban peo­ple, and of well-off France,” it ar­gued, echo­ing an ac­cu­sa­tion made by op­po­nents from the out­set and which Macron has failed to shrug off, not least be­cause of his pol­icy de­ci­sions.

His at­tempt to over­haul labour laws has sparked crit­i­cism that he is un­der­min­ing work­ers’ rights for the ben­e­fit of em­ploy­ers. Pen­sion re­form also prompted fury. A planned in­crease in fuel tax has prompted a call for na­tional protests on Novem­ber 17.

Macron’s prick­li­ness when con­fronted by mem­bers of the pub­lic hasn’t helped. He told one young man who griped that he couldn’t get work – in a coun­try where youth un­em­ploy­ment has soared – that he should just cross the street and find a job. Macron may have hoped that his host­ing this week of world lead­ers to mark the cen­te­nary of the end of World War I would dis­tract from do­mes­tic woes. But he trig­gered out­rage by sup­port­ing the idea that France should pay trib­ute to the WWI role of Gen­eral Philippe Pé­tain, who went on to be­come leader of France’s Vichy gov­ern­ment which col­lab­o­rated with Nazi Ger­many and as­sisted in the de­por­ta­tion of 76,000 French Jews. The Elysée later back­tracked on Macron’s com­ments re­gard­ing Pé­tain, a fig­ure eu­lo­gised by many in the far-right.

Macron feels Le Pen again snap­ping at this heels, with the Front Na­tional party her fa­ther founded re­branded as Na­tional Rally since she lost the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion last year. Le Pen’s camp is not a se­ri­ous op­po­si­tion within par­lia­ment, with only eight MPs against REM’s ma­jor­ity of 308, but her party – just like other far-right and Euroscep­tic groups – has tended to per­form well at Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions they take more se­ri­ously than main­stream par­ties.

In May, Macron’s REM party had a clear lead in the polls for the Eu­ro­pean elec­tions with 24pc, with Na­tional Rally at 19.5pc. The months since have been so rocky for Macron, his ad­min­is­tra­tion and his party, that polls now show REM and Na­tional Rally both at 20pc.

For a man whose sup­port for the idea of the EU has been a cor­ner­stone of his pres­i­dency, th­ese are wor­ry­ing fig­ures in­deed.

Macron’s prick­li­ness with the pub­lic has not helped his rat­ings

Em­manuel Macron is hav­ing a dif­fi­cult Novem­ber

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.