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PROTESTS

Sixty percent of French ‘unhappy’ with Macron as protests grow

Sixty percent of French voters are unhappy with President Emmanuel Macron, a survey said Wednesday, with strikes and protests growing as the ambitious young reformer prepares to mark a year in office.

Sixty percent of French 'unhappy' with Macron as protests grow
A man wearing a mask featuring French President protests during a demonstration by SNCF railway workers over plans to overhaul the national state-owned railway company SNCF. Photo: AFP
Some 58 percent of people declared themselves dissatisfied with the 40-year-old, who has sparked anger among some groups by announcing reforms to 
everything from the courts and education system to the national rail operator.
   
The Ifop-Fiducial poll was broadly in line with other surveys showing an  approval rate at around 40 percent almost a year after Macron swept to power last May at the head of a new centrist party.
 
A majority — 57 percent — agreed Macron was keeping his electoral  promises after a campaign in which the political upstart pledged to slim down  the state and make France more competitive.
   
“I'm doing what I said I would,” he told TF1 television during an interview  last week, part of a media blitz to reconnect with voters and defend his reform agenda ahead of the anniversary.
   
The poll comes as Macron faces three months of rolling strikes on the  railways over his plans to shake up heavily-indebted operator SNCF, scrapping  early retirement and other benefits for new hires.
 
The latest in a series of mass public sector strikes over his cost-cutting  plans is planned Thursday, while students at numerous universities around  France are blocking faculty buildings over his higher education reforms.  
   
On foreign policy, where Macron has pursued an energetic role, from the  Middle East to climate diplomacy, the verdict was more positive than on  domestic affairs. 
   
Some 67 percent agreed that his passionate defence of the EU had been  “positive” for relations with the bloc, while 63 percent said he had improved 
France's image abroad.
   
And 56 percent said the pro-business president had boosted economic growth  and France's attractiveness as an investment destination, following a wave of  positive economic data.
   
But only 27 percent said they support increased taxes for retirees, and  just 18 percent said he was improving healthcare. 
   
Just 30 percent agreed that Macron was “in touch with French people's  concerns”, following accusations from leftwingers that his tax cuts for the 
wealthy make him a “president of the rich”. 
   
The survey for Paris Match magazine, Sud Radio and CNEWS television questioned 1,200 people online between April 12 and April 16.

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PROTESTS

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.

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