Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
During the election in 2017, international media praised Macron’s charisma and he was supported by some of the most powerful politicians in the world including Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau. The truth is, most French people voted for him for fear that the far-right leader, Marine Le Pen got elected instead of him.
However, the movement of the yellow jackets and his decreasing popularity rating – 30% according of the French people in February 2020 according to Ifop – show us a different view. The two previous presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande did not face such a strong rejection from the French population in their first few years. Why is Macron so hated in France?
On one hand, Macron has been accused by right-wing politicians of being a mere puppet of the socialist party, for which he was the Treasury Minister from 2014 to 2016. On the other hand, it is not a secret that Macron also used to be a banker at Rothschild, which is one of the largest financial advisory groups in the world.
The reforms that Macron has so far implemented definitely serve the interests of the richest. Yellow Jackets often compare him to Louis XVI, who was beheaded in 1789 during the French Revolution (or as we French say, “one of the” Revolutions). Macron decided to suppress the wealth tax and replaced it by a tax on real estate. This thus excludes financial investments and cash flow. This clearly serves the interests of people working in finance, his peers, according to his opposers.
In addition to supporting and propping up the richest in society, Macron does not listen to the needs of those who are the most in need. The movement of the Yellow Jackets now has global recognition: non-French people often joke around telling me that France has been in a constant state of revolution since November 2018. And they are not that wrong. Strikes in France have happened in almost all sectors: public transportation, education, the legal system, health care … the French welfare state is becoming less and less generous, leading to major cuts on social services in general. France is also undergoing a major reform on pension systems at the moment, which will affect all professions.
Lastly, Macron has been involved in many scandals which have not been covered much from international media.
I would argue that the Benalla affair is the most substantial one. Alexandre Benalla used to be a security officer and deputy chief of staff to Macron. In 2018, the French newspaper, Le Monde, identified Benalla as a civilian impersonating a police officer, who beat up a protester during the May Day demonstrations against Macron in Paris. Then, it was revealed by the online journal, Mediapart, that Benalla was still in possession of several diplomatic passports even several months after he was fired from the Government staff. The same journal also revealed that Benalla had contracted financial ties, during his tenure at the Government, with Russian oligarchs who also happened to have ties with the Russian mafia. The fact that this Benalla was so linked to Macron, both professionally and personally, fully undermined Macron’s popularity in France.
I think that Macron’s political incoherence and his money/profit-driven-politics – considered more as right-wing policies than centrist, as he presented himself in 2017 – have led to this unpopularity in France. This may leave Macron with a very low chance of being re-elected in 2022.