The new president of France is floundering, unable to maintain the confidence of the mighty centrist coalition that sweep him and his young movement into office, an uprising that decimated established parties across the political spectrum.
It’s been a sharp turnaround. From here, things will only get worse.
In May, the 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron won the presidency with a massive 66- to 34-percent margin against his runoff competitor, the far-right and anti-EU Marine Le Pen. In the June parliamentary elections, Macron’s La République En Marche! (REM), a fledgling political party created in advance of the vote, won a historic majority.
Never before had such a democratic coup occurred in France. If the new government does not succeed, it may not happen again.
The president’s approval now stands at 30 percent. Macron’s ratings haven’t just decreased — they’ve taken a virtual nose-dive.
Macron promised to combine the best of the left and the right to create a system that worked for all. A former economy minister to his socialist predecessor François Hollande, Macron would eventually court the fiscal conservatives by installing Édouard Philippe, of the center-right Republican Party, as his prime minister.
Macron vowed to create more jobs for the sluggish economy by lessening the country’s notoriously strict business regulations while still maintaining a socially liberal stance on cultural issues.
Since the outset, however, the presidency has hit several snags.
First, Pierre de Villiers, Macron’s chief of the defense staff, resigned over the president’s cuts to the military budget. By slashing defense funding during a time of political uneasiness across the European continent, Macron damaged his perception as protectorate of France. And the high-profile resignation highlighted establishment ire of the new president’s ambition and bluster.
Then, the president came under criticism for proposing a new “first lady” position for his wife, Brigette Macron. In the role, she would be paid a public salary funded by taxpayers, triggering calls of nepotism from some. An online petition to deny her the role currently has over 315,000 signatories. The outcry caused the president to later abandon the idea.
Then, in August, reports revealed Macron spent the equivalent of over $30,000 on makeup in his first three months in office. This embarrassing excess can’t be endearing to the downtrodden electorate. “Makeup-gate” was simply one more brick lining the young president’s political tomb.
As Macron prepares to slim down the nation’s notoriously complex business regulations, published as the Code du Travail, he faces further pressure from labor unions. If successful, the project may indeed create more jobs and bolster the economy’s recovery. France’s unemployment rate is currently hovering around a not-so-ideal 9.5 percent. The country could do with more business-friendly legal protection.
However, any success from such an endeavor will not be felt for many months, or even years. In the meantime, Macron’s war on labor, in a country where such unions hold great political and social power, will do him no good in the realm of popularity. Diminishing public support will also hurt the president’s ability to pass further legislation.
Here in the United States, President Donald Trump is considered to have a disastrously low approval rating at 37 percent. Macron is already well beneath that, and in a fraction of the time. If he continues to drop, what more will he lose?
If the young Macron is not able to end the downward spiral of his presidency, he will soon find himself in a political trough impossible to escape.