Why Macron has lost the French so quickly

Paris, Wednesday

Why have the French soured on their 40-year-old President Emmanuel Macron, who has been heckled and booed in recent days, as he grapples with a tax revolt?

Analysts say by sidelining trade unions and centralising power in the presidential palace, Macron has left himself singularly exposed to voters’ anger.

This was a similar criticism to the one made against right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy during his time in office from 2007-12.

“Sarko” left office as the country’s most unpopular leader ever, only for his successor Francois Hollande to do even worse, famously falling to four per cent in one opinion poll. An Ifop poll Tuesday showed Macron’s approval rating sinking to a new low of 23 per cent.

Macron, who had never held elected office before becoming president, tried to respond to popular anger about the country’s political class by bringing scores of newcomers into politics.

But Michel Papin, retired poultry farmer, said the greenhorns had become part of the problem. “These people cannot respond to the people because they are technocrats,” he said.

But the spark that lit the revolt was Macron’s perceived bias towards the rich, exemplified first by his decision to scrap wealth taxes on investors at the same time as he raised taxes on pensioners.

The government has defended the move, one of Macron’s first on taking office, as necessary to encourage investment.

But Macron was henceforth branded the “president of the rich” — a label he has struggled to shake off. “Emmanuel Macron is a little boy who has always been told he’s the best, he’s always been idolised. He’s never been told ‘you shouldn’t do that’. The guy thinks he’s God!”, said Claudio, a 47-year-old mason.

Like many of the demonstrators, Claudio, refused to give his full name. “He’s the king. It’s as if we’re in the Middle Ages!” said Philippe, a 74-year-old leader of a protest group.

Macron’s refusal to acknowledge any of the protesters’ demands before rioters ran amok in Paris last weekend have sealed the image of a president short on empathy.

Adding fuel to the fire is the perceived extravagance of the president and his wife Brigitte, with many protesters citing the set of porcelain tableware reportedly worth half a million euros he ordered, days after complaining about the “crazy amounts of dough” spent on social security. -AFP

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