Why France’s Macron is Doomed to Fail
When Emmanuel Macron, darling of the French establishment, was elected in May 2017, he was hailed as the saviour of everything from French national pride to the French economy to the dream of establishing a single European state.
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A little over 18 months later, the shine has worn off. Languishing in the polls, with approval ratings taking a tumble off a cliff and each month bringing a new scandal, the man who appeared to promise so much to the French elite now appears a broken docket.
But how did it come to this juncture? Many blame his haughty view of the electorate as problematic. Yet the three leaders adored by the French throughout history – Louis XIV (Le Roi Soleil, or the Sun King), Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle – all had autocratic regimes of one hue or another, and similarly viewed themselves as guiding the French people who were incapable of doing so by themselves.
Echoes of this aristocratic attitude were heard in Macron’s complaint a few months ago that ‘the Gauls’ were too resistant to change. It may well be that the French public have finally, after long decades of arrogant leaders, had enough of being talked down to by their own politicians.
However, when considering Macron’s collapse, we must also consider how firm his support was in the first place. When Macron was elected, it was simply as the least bad of the field – an analysis supported by the actual vote. In the first round of the election in April 2017, Macron barely scraped into the second round with only 24% of the votes.
Behind him came Marine Le Pen, the leader of a party which for decades was the political lodgings of France’s Neo-Nazis, on 22%. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, formerly of the French Communist Party and still parroting the same failed Leninist doctrines as always, on 20%. Then Francois Fillon, who during the campaign was revealed to have spent over half a million of State funds on a job for his wife, of which there is no evidence she ever did anything, also on 20%.
So, when faced with a Communist, a woman tarred (correctly or incorrectly) with the brush of French fascism, and a man whose corruption would make Haughey blush, Macron only managed a measly 24%. Hardly the most concrete foundations upon which to build far-reaching reforms both of the EU and the French economy.
In fact, it may well be the EU reforms which could prove Macron’s undoing. In that same election, the only candidates arguing for further EU integration were Macron and Benoit Hamon, the uninspiring Socialist Party candidate who trailed home with only 6% of the vote. That’s just 30% of French voters who (maybe) wanted more EU integration.
On the other hand, Le Pen, Mélenchon, Dupont-Aignan, Assilineau and Arthaud (who together made up close to 50% of the vote) promised some sort of French exit of the EU, and Fillon promised to scale back the EU’s powers to a more economic unit reminiscent of its pre-Maastricht treaty era.
When half of the voters backed candidates who argued for leaving the EU, it does not of course mean that they all voted for those candidates purely because they agreed with that point. However, what it does mean is that it was not a significant enough dissuasion to prevent them from voting for these candidates. On these foundations of sand, Macron sought to build an empire. It was inevitable that his federalist dreams would flounder.
On the home front, his battle is disintegrating. With Macron’s continued employment of a man caught beating up protesters being the latest controversy. At the same time, every effort he has made to reform the economy has been met with fierce opposition, with even reasonable propositions such as requiring a minimum of academic achievement to study at university triggering protest.
In this context, the Macron Presidency is falling apart, unable to implement far-reaching and unwanted reforms both at home and in the EU. In the process, he is managing to do what nobody predicted on that sunny May Sunday 18 months ago: making Francois Hollande’s disastrous Socialist Presidency look tranquil and efficient.
Originally Published at: The Burkean