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Why is President Macron's popularity suddenly on the up?

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Why is President Macron's popularity suddenly on the up?
Photos: AFP
11:18 CET+01:00
Under-pressure French President Emmanuel Macron has faced the wrath of yellow vest protests for weeks. They still call for his resignation and some have even staged mock beheadings of the president. Yet his popularity ratings have improved.

"Macron demission!" has been the cry on the streets of French cities every Saturday since November.

The Gilets Jaunes protesters have repeatedly made it clear they want the president gone.

While their protests began about fuel taxes and morphed into calls for social justice, the one thing that has united the many strands of the movement has been their personal hatred for the French president.

They see him as an arrogant leader who only cares for his rich "friends" and has little time for the man on the street. He has angered them with many a clumsy gaffe or an outspoken word in recent months.

But it's not just the yellow vests who have grown unhappy with Macron. In truth the president has been slipping in the polls ever since his brief honeymoon period came to an end shortly after being elected.

He went from newly elected president to "most unpopular" French head of state ever, according to opinion polls, in record time, beating his predecessors François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy who also suffered the same fate.

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Yet unlike his predecessors Macron has suddenly jumped back up in the popularity polls.

On Tuesday an Ifop-Fiducial survey revealed that Macron's approval ratings had jumped up 6 points since mid-January. And it's a full 11 points above his lowest approval rating of 23 percent in the December poll.

The jump may not be anything for Macron to shout about and he certainly shouldn't, given how often he sparks anger when he opens his mouth, but it's somewhat unexpected.

Political commentators in France point to a number of reasons to explain Macron's rebound.

Some point to the measures he took to ease the yellow vest crisis, such as boosting the minimum wage and cutting taxes for pensioners and overtime workers.

Others believe Macron has enjoyed other recent successes such as the country's record low number of road fatalities following his controversial speed limit cut, as well as his reform of the income tax system to "pay as you earn", which has gone fairly smoothly.

Many point to Macron's launch of his "national consultation" which has seen him debating with local mayors for several hours around the country as he tries to reconnect with the country.

There has also been a Republican backlash against the "yellow vest" rebellion which has benefitted the president. Some 14,000 people marched through Paris last month to denounce violence and show their support for democracy.

The Local's political columnist John Lichfield believes the boost in popularity for Macron is more a reaction against the ongoing violent protests and rioting than anything the president himself has achieved. 

“The bounce in Macron’s popularity is partly a vote against chaos," he said.

"The prosperous part of the country is worried by the excesses and the persistence of the Gilets Jaunes. His rise in popularity is also, I think, a recognition of Macron’s performances at local meetings during his Great National Debate.

"But he has to be careful not to dominate that process. Too much 'Macronsplaining' will not be good for Macron.”

Macron is certainly not out of the woods yet with 67 percent of those polled still against his economic policies and 74 percent believing he still doesn't take into account their main concerns.

With sensitive reforms to jobless benefits and the pension system in the pipeline Macron will know his ratings could easily plummet once again.

 
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Mike - 06 Feb 2019 20:12
This jump is not that surprising - a cohesive, stable and viable strategy for the French economy is what matters to most people, but it needs to be done with far greater sensitivity and acknowledgement of working people's problems. Macron and En Marche are learning. The Gilets Jaunes afre not learning, other than that they will not have a common platform until they become yet another political party, with all the compromises that reality forces on any body which seeks to obtain votes. Mere protest rather than substantive and viable policy, does not live long. Just look at the Italian coalition of protest-elected government beginning to fall apart, much of it due to the nastier side of its compromises with the semi-fascist Northern League. We are starting to see the same with Le Pen's re-imaging of her "blame everyone else, especially darkies" party, but with no credible policy for correcting the perceived wrongs of the majority, other than a massive protectionism using billions of tax-payers' cash. To that end, it is little different from the far left, but intensely nationalist rather than internationalist. Good luck with that, in the Global Village.
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