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POLITICS

Why do the French hate Macron so much?

Over the last five years, French President Emmanuel Macron has inspired a rare form of hostility even in a country that is famous for loving to hate its leaders.

Why do the French hate Macron so much?
Emmanuel Macron. Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP

His polarising effect on voters has sparked myriad media articles, books and countless TV debates, none more so than during the violent “yellow vest” protests against him in 2018-19.

“There’s a sort of hatred that he concentrates that we’d never encountered before,” veteran journalist Nicolas Domenach, who has written a second book on the 44-year-old, told AFP.

“It’s something that has been present throughout his term in office and comes to the surface quite brutally,” added the co-author of “Macron: Why So Much Hatred?”

Only ex-president Charles de Gaulle inspired such visceral rejection by part of the population while in power, Domenach said, mainly because he granted independence to Algeria in 1962, which was viewed by critics as a betrayal.

Yet so far, an average of polls shows Macron him with a narrow lead of 55 percent versus 45 percent for Le Pen going into Sunday’s vote.

Some have theorised that Macron’s “top of the class” persona rubs some people up the wrong way, as does his uncompromising way of talking and intensely centralised style of governing.

His association with finance and business thanks to a stint at the Rothschild bank, coupled with his schooling in top universities, also make him elitist in the eyes of many.

READ ALSO 5 things you didn’t know about Emmanuel Macron

This was reinforced by major gaffes early in his term such as when he told an unemployed gardener he could simply “cross the road” and find him a job.

“He crystallises a sort of class hatred that is very deeply rooted in French society,” said historian Jean Garrigues, who is researching the role of hatred in politics for a new book.

“He appears to some as an almost archetypical example of the privileged and elite classes, the French of the rich,” he told AFP.

Protests against Macron have regularly seen a return of the imagery of the ultimate class conflict: the 1789 French Revolution that saw the monarchy deposed and king Louis XVI beheaded.

Effigies of Macron have been guillotined in public, while pictures of his face were stuck atop spikes during some “yellow vest” marches.

“There was a revolutionary dimension to it, a spirit of insurrection,” Igor Maquet, a veteran of the “yellow vest” protests in Nantes, western France, told AFP.

Le Pen, despite coming from a far more privileged and Parisian background than her opponent, has sought to portray herself as a voice of the downtrodden.

READ ALSO 5 things you didn’t know about Marine Le Pen

But while Macron might be repellent for some, he scores much better than Le Pen in polls on other crucial measures such as perceptions of competency and having the stature of a president.

With her background in France’s xenophobic far right, Le Pen meanwhile is seen as “worrying” by as much as half the population, polls suggest.

Macron’s aides and friends have always been exasperated by his image, which they say contrasts with the charming and good-natured person they know in private.

“Macron loves people,” a senior MP told AFP recently, adding that the president and his wife Brigitte were bothered by the “gap” between his real personality and his political persona.

“He has huge ability to be empathetic but he still has this damned image of arrogance,” the MP added on condition of anonymity.

Macron himself theorised before being elected that the French were “regicidal monarchists” who loved electing a king-like president only to reject them.

“French political culture is extremely violent,” he told Le Point magazine last week. “I am very clear-eyed about that.”

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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