Why President Macron's popularity has fallen

Spending cuts, his row with the French military and a perceived aloofness have all contributed to a drop in the opinion polls.

This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

After an incredibly quick rise to power and two and a half months in the Élysée Palace, French president Emmanuel Macron’s popularity ratings have slumped, reports FRANCE 24.

“In the process and function of democracy there is something missing, the figure of the king, whose death, I believe, fundamentally, the people did not want,” Macron said two years ago.

Alas, the elected head of state faces a more banal concern than the guillotine: a 10-point slump in his popularity ratings.

In this comment, Macron was making an important point. The President of France’s Fifth Republic – created by Charles de Gaulle in 1958 – is supposed to incarnate all of the majesty of monarchical heads of state. A part of the national malaise that parachuted the wunderkind Macron to power was the diminished grandeur of the Presidency.

Macron’s two predecessors, François Hollande – derisively nicknamed ‘Flanby’ after the trademark French caramel dessert, with approval ratings at 4 percent towards the end of his presidency – and Nicolas ‘Bling-Bling’ Sarkozy, were broadly perceived as sorely lacking the stature (figuratively as well as literally) of de Gaulle.

Leader of the Free French during the Second World War over a decade before occupying the Élysée Palace, de Gaulle constituted the ultimate "homme providential" – the strong, charismatic leader to solve France’s problems.

Most significantly, like de Gaulle in the 1950s, Macron has successfully exploited France’s disillusionment with the political parties on offer by creating a new political movement centred around his agenda.

Nevertheless, Macron’s 54 percent approval rating – two points lower than Hollande’s at the same time in his Presidency – suggests France’s voters are disillusioned. The self-declared “Jupiterian” President – referring to Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods – has made some unpopular moves in his first months at the Élysée.

Macron’s programme of €13 billion of local government cuts – €3 billion more than promised during his campaign – has outraged mayors across France.

Other details of his overarching agenda of €60 billion of cuts by 2022 have caused similar vexation, including Macron’s cancellation of over €300 million of education funding – which one union leader described to Le Monde newspaper as “unprecedented”. Macron’s proposed cuts have even provoked anger in the military – hitherto so discreet that the French call it "la grande muette" (“the great and silent”).

General Pierre de Villiers, the head of the armed forces, resigned on July 19, saying that Macron’s budget measures would make him unable to “guarantee” the “protection of France”.

Many see Macron’s response to de Villiers as a troubling display of pique. Left-wing newspaper Libération – hardly a natural ally of France’s military establishment – described it as a “little authoritarian fit”, which shows that Macron “needs to grow up a bit”.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.


Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe