Robert Harneis -TDO- (FRANCE) - For the first time since he became President Emmanuel Macron was forced to divert from lofty matters of international relations on a trip abroad and deal with less dignified questions about domestic matters.
Back in Paris 200 people had been arrested after rioters smashed windows and set fire to cars cars during May Day protests in central Paris. A total of 1,200 masked and hooded protesters from the far-left anarchist group, the Black Bloc, hijacked what was intended to be a peaceful rally against public sector labor reforms.
Four people, including one police officer, were injured as rioters dressed completely in black smashed windows, torched cars and threw petrol bombs after a carefully planned call on social media for a ‘revolutionary day’. The police had to use water cannons and teargas against the masked protestors in an effort to disperse the mob.
In a joint press conference with the Australian Prime Minister the French President had to fall back on the standard utterances. He tweeted that he condemned with ‘utmost firmness’ the violence that has disfigured the traditional May 1 trade union parade and said that everything will be done so that those responsible are identified and held responsible for their acts’. This inevitably colorless reaction from a President on the other side of the world, busy with who knows what, as far as the average citizen is concerned, revealed that the government were caught on the back foot.
Should the President have gone off on a trip that was originally not even scheduled when there was obviously trouble brewing at home? ‘Was he’, it is being asked ‘trying to use would be prestigious trips abroad to distract attention from domestic problems?’ France is going through a period of labor unrest notable on the railways and in the universities as he tries to rush through reforms. If that was his plan it didn’t work this time. Reacting to criticism of his absence, the French President said ‘My job is not to watch television and make comments on current affairs, it is to act for the country and that is what I am doing.’
Back at home a slightly harassed Prime Minster issued a statement praising the ‘professionalism of the forces of law and order who knew how to react with self-control in the face of acts of extreme violence.’ He criticized ‘the irresponsibility of radical speeches, which encourage this sort of behavior’.
His political opponents were quick to perceive an opportunity to attack a President who has so far been largely untouchable. Marine Le Pen his unsuccessful rival for the Presidency has been calling on the government to act against the culprits for some time now. ‘These extreme left-wing militias ought to have been disbanded a longtime ago. But the problem is that the leftist government is tolerant towards them and now one could almost say complicit,’ she said.
The leader of the Republican Party Laurent Waulquier tweeted that these confrontations demonstrate the ‘bankruptcy of the authority of the state.’ He added ‘it is urgent to re-establish the law and order: full support to our police facing these hooligans’.
It appears that the object of the flying visit to Australia was to take advantage of the British preoccupation with Brexit and strengthen French links with the subcontinent. It was tacked on to a visit to French New Caledonia.
While back in Paris everybody wanted to know how a mob of 1200 rioters completely wrong footed the police, Fortune magazine chose the least convenient moment to publish an interview with the French President in which amongst many other things he declared that he was in favor of abolishing the fiscal exit tax on essentially wealthy tax exiles. He justified this by saying it encouraged start-up entrepreneurs to leave France rather than risk paying it. In full globalist free market mode, he was categoric ‘I don’t want an ‘exit tax’. It doesn’t make sense. People are free to invest where they want.’ However logical and justified such a statement maybe, for it to hit the media on May Day while he was off on what many will see as an irrelevant jaunt, may well haunt him for rest of his presidency. He is already accused of being the President of the rich in a country with three million unemployed.