Features

Macron fails to deliver

France’s golden boy is rapidly losing his shine. Matthew Partridge reports.

915-Macron-634
Macron: dogged by resignations and scandal

"Emmanuel Macron may be a big figure on the world stage, but at home in France he's facing an uphill struggle to regain public confidence," says Hugh Schofield on the BBC website. The latest opinion polls suggest that "only 28% of voters are satisfied with his performance down from 35% in July".

These figures mean that "he is actually more unpopular at this point in his mandate than were either of his predecessors Franois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy". What's more, the far-right National Rally is now level-pegging with Macron's party in the polls for the upcoming European elections, a potential "body blow" for his administration.

Scandals and resignations

Part of the reason for Macron's rapid fall from grace is "a series of high-profile departures from his government", says Adam Forrest in the Independent. These include the surprise resignation of his environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, a popular former activist and TV presenter, and the exit of the sports minister, Laura Flessel, after her tax affairs were queried.

There was also a "summer scandal over the firing of his bodyguard" who was captured on video "hitting a male protester and dragging away a woman while off duty". The president himself was also "heavily criticised" for "telling an unemployed man he could easily get a job simply by "crossing the street".

The series of "mini-scandals" has clearly had an effect, says Adam Nossiter in the New York Times. However, the more important factor for Macron's unpopularity are more "substantive". In particular the "overwhelming feeling" is that his "express train of pro-market reforms lightening a protective labour code, largely doing away with a wealth tax, ending favoured status for the country's railway workers has so far not improved the lives of ordinary French people". Voters have "grown impatient" with an unemployment rate that remains above 9%, while the economy grows sluggishly.

No choice but to double down

Still, Macron "has little choice but to press on and hope for results", says Nicholas Vinocur on Politico. His 2019 budget "shows the president doubling down on supply-side economic policies and limiting handouts". This week he unveiled tax cuts worth up to €26bn for workers and employers "the most substantial one-time reduction France has seen in more than a decade". These are part of a strategy "of making work pay more in a country where labour costs are high". However, even Macron admits his reforms will "not pay off until two or three years into his term".

This calculation is made more difficult by the fact that Macron "is threading a needle as he tries to stimulate the economy without undercutting his pledge to make France a model of fiscal discipline within the European Union", says Stacy Meichtry in the Wall Street Journal. Under the current proposals, France's budget deficit is expected to reach 2.8% of gross domestic product in 2019, which puts it perilously close to the EU's deficit ceiling of 3% of GDP.

Recommended

The Arab Spring ten years on: a revolution that failed to blossom
Global Economy

The Arab Spring ten years on: a revolution that failed to blossom

Ten years ago, the Arab world was rocked by mass protests and popular uprisings that ousted long-reviled dictators. For the most part, the end result …
23 Jan 2021
The charts that matter: inflation, bubbles, and booze
Economy

The charts that matter: inflation, bubbles, and booze

As US stocks head higher into bubble territory, John Stepek looks at the charts that matter most to the global economy.
23 Jan 2021
Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it
Inflation

Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it

The UK government borrowed £34.1bn in December, a record amount for that month. Britain's debt pile now amounts to 100% of GDP. How are we going to pa…
22 Jan 2021
Beware: inflation is starting to stir in the US
Inflation

Beware: inflation is starting to stir in the US

With US consumer prices up by 1.4% in the last year, concern about inflation is now everywhere.
22 Jan 2021

Most Popular

Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021
House prices

Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021

Lockdown sent house prices berserk as cooped up home-workers fled for bigger properties in the country. And while they won’t rise quite as much this y…
18 Jan 2021
Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it
Inflation

Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it

The UK government borrowed £34.1bn in December, a record amount for that month. Britain's debt pile now amounts to 100% of GDP. How are we going to pa…
22 Jan 2021
When will the US stockmarket bubble burst?
US stockmarkets

When will the US stockmarket bubble burst?

With US stocks more expensive than before the Wall Street crash of 1929, there are growing signs of “mania”. But what will push markets over the edge?
22 Jan 2021