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France's Macron booed at Rugby World Cup opening

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
France's Macron booed at Rugby World Cup opening
France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the crowd ahead of the opening Rugby World Cup match between France and New Zealand at the Stade de France outside Paris on September 8, 2023. He was booed by the crowd during his speech. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Hard-left opponents of Emmanuel Macron on Saturday expressed glee while his supporters made clear their anger after the French president was loudly booed and whistled as he made a speech at the opening of the Rugby World Cup.

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Macron had to pause ahead of giving his speech from a lectern on the pitch ahead of the clash between France and New Zealand as large numbers of spectators in the packed Stade de France booed, whistled and jeered on Friday evening.

The president's appearance was also greeted with a similar reaction at special fan zones with aTV relay set up in Paris and Marseille, AFP correspondents said.

"King Macron has been booed by the French people! We are never going to leave him in peace!" said Manuel Bompard, a senior figure in the France Unbowed (LFI) hard-left party.

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Macron's popularity has suffered this year after implementing a controversial reform to raise the French pension age in the face of widespread protests and popular opposition.

"The people have not forgotten the insults and the pension reform. He had the welcome he deserved," added Bastien Lachaud LFI deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, the area where Stade de France is located just outside Paris.

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The far-right was also enthusiastic with National Rally (RN) MP Stephanie Galzy tweeting that the booing was a "symbol".

His current popularity level, after falling some 10 points between December and April, is now at 31 percent, just above a low of 29 percent reached in the spring, according to Ifop/Fiducial polls.

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The opening ceremony that preceded the match, won by France in a sensational start to the campaign, had seen actor Jean Dujardin lead a showcase of the "French art of living" that had been widely applauded.

French actor Jean Dujardin takes part in the opening ceremony of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup

French actor Jean Dujardin takes part in the opening ceremony of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup ahead of the opening match on September 8, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

But with the eyes of the world on France one year before Paris hosts the Olympics, Macron supporters were far less impressed.

"A stadium shouldn't do that! To boo the president of the republic is to boo France," said MP Mathieu Lefevre.

Joelle Garriaud-Maylam, a senator for the right-wing opposition Republicans added: "Bravo to the XV of France. But shame on the supporters who dared to boo the president of the republic in front of the media around the world."

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"We may not like Emmanuel Macron but at least we respect his function! What a sad image for our country," she added.

The match attracted high numbers of viewers with 80,000 spectators in the stadium and on average 15.4 million watching on television, a high for the sport in France since 2011.

Alongside holders the Springboks and Ireland, Les Bleus are favourites to win.

They face lowly-ranked Namibia, an ever-improving Italy as well as Uruguay, in their next match on Thursday, in Lille.

 

 

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