Why this story matters:
On New Year’s Eve, Emmanuel Macron sat at a marble table with the French and European flags perched loosely on his left. With nothing but a piece of paper and a simple pencil on the table, he delivered his first televised speech since his victory in the 2017 presidential elections.
The speech lasted a hefty 18 minutes in total, and his communications team made sure to appeal to the country’s younger generation with a shortened square-framed video formatted for mobile use.
To weaken his reputation as the ‘president of the rich’, Macron used his speech to address the concerns of common citizens and used words like “fraternity”, “collective” and “national cohesion” to create a sense of unity. But the speech was received with skepticism; media outlets claimed his address was too lengthy and that the promise of a “large social project” for 2018 is an empty one.
This is precisely why living in Macron’s France is an erratic experience.
Since the start of his presidency, polls have shown a steady drop in his popularity. This started when he passed the controversial labor law (fr. loi travail), which allows employers to hire and fire more easily.
It was met with resistance by France’s longstanding trade unions and reinforced his image as an elitist president.
The changes he made to the wealth tax, described in his speech as “profound transformation for France”, dealt an equally harmful blow to his reputation. Among other things, the reform reduces the scope of the wealth tax for the richest and imposes a 30% flat levy on capital income.
At the same time, Macron has been making so many institutional changes that it’s like watching a sped-up shell game. Nobody knows where the ball is and what consequences the changes will bring. Like his speech, Macron’s time in office so far has felt like a one-man show.
Journalist Lara Marlowe from the Irish Times summed it up perfectly:
“The world envies France its brilliant, dynamic, young president. The French appear determined to destroy him”.
Macron’s speech has left his country puzzled. He ended his address with a reinterpretation of John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, by saying:
“Ask yourself every day what you can do for your country… I need that engagement.”
This strangely expressed sentiment is symbolic of the Macron one man show presidency -- it has left the public feeling that instead of building a better country together, they are being asked to do Macron a favor.
Details from the story:
- France’s president Emmanuel Macron delivered a 18-minute-long New Year’s Eve speech.
- He was elected 8 months ago.
- Polls have shown that his popularity has dropped drastically since he entered the presidential palace.
- He announced a “large social project” for 2018.
- He has recently been criticized for devising one of the harshest immigration policy reforms.