The Another

    ‘Macron is the image of a monarch besieged by an angry public and thus unable to generate momentum’



    The anniversary of Emmanuel Macron’s re-election was commemorated with a cacophony of pots and pans being banged in front of town halls. As he blew out the candle on the first year of his second term, Macron is the image of a monarch besieged by an angry public – and thus unable to generate momentum for his remaining four years. His “100 days” (which began on Monday, April 17) to try to extricate himself from the pension reform chaos, have been met with sarcasm and sneering. What could help him rebound now?

    Macron is not the first head of state to find himself cornered by an angry public. Not so long ago, Jacques Chirac found himself in the same position, twice, managing as best he could to remove himself from the impasse.

    The first time was in 1997, when the right ruled the country. It controlled everything: the Elysee, the prime minister’s office, the National Assembly, the Senate and most of the local governments. Yet they were still met with an arduous task. Eighteen months earlier, a reform of the special pension schemes, combined with a social security reform, had paralyzed the nation, as the French people supported striking railway workers. Prime Minister Alain Juppé had to give in to his desire for reform without overcoming the popular distrust that was driving the majority’s rebellion, torn between Chirac and Edouard Balladur.

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    Echoes of Chirac

    The creation of the eurozone served as the backdrop for the drama. It required tightening the budgetary screws, while Chirac had promised during his campaign to end “the social divide”. In an attempt to resolve matters, in the spring of 1997 he dissolved the National Assembly. Instead of giving Juppé a docile majority, the operation ended up handing the keys to the left, led by Lionel Jospin, a Socialist.

    The second upset came in May 2005, when the victory of the No vote in the referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (55%) revealed the fragility of the “republican front” that had allowed Chirac to be re-elected three years earlier, against the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen. The left had voted massively for Chirac (who won 82.2% of the votes cast) but without supporting his policies. On April 21, 2002, he called for the French people to “gather behind the same democratic ideal” but he had not made a move to get closer to it, because his intention was to reunify the right by creating the Union for a Popular Movement .

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    Macron currently finds himself in a similar situation. He was also re-elected on the strength of a republican front, albeit not as decisively (58.5% of the votes cast, against Marine Le Pen). He too said that this result “put him under obligation for the years to come,” but without then listening to the left, since his aim is to consolidate the central bloc that emerged in 2017 from the ashes of the Socialist Party (PS) and The Republicans (LR). In his defense, during the presidential campaign Macron made his desire for pension reform very clear.

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