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Macron thought they might have an “intellectual conversation”
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full screen Emmanuel Macron after just winning the presidential election. Photo: Rafael Yaghobzadeh / AP
The Eiffel Tower glitters frantically in the dark, the lights flash at a furious pace. A sea of people gathered in the great park of Paris. Every other person seems to be waving a French flag, it’s red, white and blue wherever you look at it.
It is election night, Sunday 25 April 2022, and France has just elected a president. The votes are counted – Emmanuel Macron is re-elected. Counter-candidate Marine Le Pen, from the far-right National Assembly, gets 41.5 percent of the vote. Macron took the rest home.
Now he is walking towards the podium in front of the sea of fans. He takes his time. He advances, hand in hand with Mrs. Birgitte Macron, to the notes of the national anthem. They are surrounded by about twenty children and adolescents who for some unfathomable reason have been entrusted with the task of escorting the president.
Macron stops to shake hands with some ministers and supporters. The EU minister even receives a kiss on the cheek.
President of the United States Joe Biden later says he tried to call Macron to congratulate him on election night, but that the Frenchman “was busy living the flea at the Eiffel Tower.”
I follow the show from a pavilion in a large park a few kilometers away. Here the losers are crammed into a room. Marine Le Pen is upstairs. She is delaying. On the big screen, we – hundreds of journalists and as many party members – follow Macron’s quiet walk.
When finally Le Pen appears on the podium of the pavilion, she is not so anxious to drag the time. She makes a short speech, thanks the voters and tells them to mobilize before the parliamentary elections. It all ends with an exclamation with which the supporters immediately agree – long live the republic, long live France, long live the revolution!
It didn’t take long to be branded an arrogant president of the rich
This fall, Emmanuel became Macron owned by a man who shouted revolution live. It may seem comical for a president to have an egg on his head. But I can only think about how scared he must have been, he being constantly surrounded by security guards and needing to be on full alert among people.
Macron founded his party in 2016 – The Republic in March!, on Avanti, Repubblica !. The vision was that the party would bring together all progressive French, both right and left, who love Europe.
Now he is the first president for 20 years who managed to get re-elected. For the past five years he has been able to do exactly what he wanted, because he has had his majority in Parliament. He has made extensive use of it, through major reforms that have mainly concerned taxes and the labor market.
And they haven’t always been popular.
Macron began his tenure by lowering the wealth tax to keep the country’s wealthiest Frenchmen. He called those who criticized his labor market reforms lazy worms. As if that weren’t enough, he previously worked as a banker.
It didn’t take long to be branded an arrogant president of the rich.
When Macron introduced an environmental tax on fossil fuels, it became the icing on the cake for many. They wore reflective vests and started demonstrating against high prices, inequality and low wages. Yellow vests have become the president’s first major concern.
Eventually, Macron got it pay attention to the fuel tax. But that didn’t mean the difficulties were gone. The Yellow Vests were soon replaced by a pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis. Then came the war.
During the world crises, Macron took his place internationally. At the EU level, he and Angela Merkel have taken the initiative to jointly take out investment loans to get the European economy back on track. Even during the war in Ukraine, Macron played a leading role internationally, to the point that Estonian Prime Minister Kajsa Kallas finally exclaimed that some European leaders should “stop calling Putin so often”.
– I am not created to drive in calm weather. I’m made to drive in a storm, a newly elected Macron said in an interview in 2017.
He was lucky.
But at the same time that Macron was re-elected president, he lost his majority in parliament. Instead, large swathes of voters turned to the left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon party and its coalition. Perhaps it is the injustices that the Yellow Vests have reacted to that torment again.
Big ambitions, used to taking care of everything by himself – and total misunderstanding for those who don’t think like him
You have to give one thing Macron – is not a populist. He is not afraid of becoming unpopular or of giving unpleasant truths. This year, for example, he went to the polls to raise the retirement age to save the economy. Le Pen promised the opposite, a lowering of the retirement age.
Despite this, he won.
Without a majority in Parliament, there is a good chance – or risk, depending on who you ask – that Macron will focus even more on diplomacy and foreign policy. They are traditionally the duties of the president and do not need the support of the parliament.
The new documentary “A President, Europe and War” follows Macron in the spring of 2022, focusing on his hundreds of hours on the phone with Vladimir Putin. He clearly shows that the president manages all diplomacy and makes all assessments himself. He seems to discuss issues only with his closest associates – and not many of them speak out against him.
Macron acknowledges same who failed.
“I thought we could find a way with Vladimir Putin based on trust and intellectual conversation,” Macron said in the documentary.
This sums up the French president well. Big ambitions, used to taking care of everything by himself – and total misunderstanding for those who don’t feel exactly like him.
So maybe you can behave when you have your majority in Parliament. But right now, the president in front of the glittering Eiffel Tower seems to need to find a new way to lead the country.