Emmanuel Macron’s Way: Great Success and Sudden Fall
14 décembre 2018
In May 2017, he was triumphantly elected as president of the French Republic with 66% of the vote. The Economist, a weekly of the global elite, represented him on the cover: he walked on the water. He was considered the man who would revive Europe and oppose all populism. This week the same magazine published the picture of the vandalized Arc de Triomphe. In the French streets thousands of people chant “Macron, resign!”
How did we get here? The success of the second round certainly made us forget the result of the first round of the presidential elections. Nearly half of the electorate voted for candidates contesting globalization and more specifically the European construction. I wrote that if Macron could not reconcile the two Frances, the one which believes it is the winner of globalization and the one which believes it is the loser, there would be troubles soon. The situation in France is not totally different from that in the United Kingdom (Brexit) or the United States (election of Trump). The presidential campaign of 2017 indeed showed a deeply divided country, between the satisfied people and those who, in anger, consider their situation unfair. We see a mobilization of workers who earn little, which makes the French president falter.
The first measures of Emmanuel Macron focused on the economic competitiveness of France, but left out the reduction of inequalities. Macron got an image of “the president of the rich.” Some remarks, considered contemptuous regarding the underprivileged classes, aggravated this problem. In a way that has taken all observers unexpectedly, the most disadvantaged have mobilized and discovered their strength. Emmanuel Macron was forced to make a major shift by announcing strong social measures. Will they be enough to bring the irruption of anger back into calm river? The mobilization will probably weaken, but it will not disappear.
This mobilization recalls that one cannot bring reforms against the opinion of the population and that the poorest can manage to be heard strongly and to block the country, if they have the feeling of despised and ignored. Social networks and news channels continue to offer them a sounding board.
The image of France in the world has been strongly affected. The portrayal of violence always has a stronger impact than reality. Many foreign tourists have canceled their bookings in Paris luxury hotels.
Did Emmanuel Macron lose any room for maneuver on the international arena? For the moment, it is certain and the domestic agenda will be his unique and main concern in the near future. But it does not mean that he will not be able to bounce back in a few weeks. The image of France has been undermined, but temporarily; it will recover, because the news drives the news. President Macron may be tempted to take the initiative and look for a new international success.The election of a new leader as the head of the German CDU gives Chancellor Angela Merkel room for maneuver. The possibility of European strategic autonomy depends on the Franco-German tandem, which is the central strategic objective of Emmanuel Macron. The real weight of France was not affected by this December uprising. Anyway, the events in France show that leaders must be attentive to popular movements and that internal social cohesion is the first condition of a global stature.