By Robert Harneis –TDO-(FRANCE) Up with the rocket – down with the stick. That is how it looks for the new young President of France at the end of one hundred days in power. An Ifop poll shows that at the same time in his presidency François Hollande was 10 points above with a performance satisfaction rating of 46% against Macron’s 36%. His popularity fell faster in July than for any President since 1995.
Macron began his reign with an international relations blitz highlighted by hosting Trump and Putin, with high profile state visits at the Eiffel Tower and Versailles respectively. In policy terms, he gave meaning to this parade of high level meetings by adjusting French policy away from an obsession with ousting President Bachar al Assad from power, in favor of genuinely making the defeat of terrorism his top priority.
Many French people felt that both his predecessors devalued the role by their lack of gravitas. Sarkozy was too pushy and vulgar; Hollande was too bumbling and irrelevant. To that extent Macron has begun well. Unfortunately for him that is not enough. Electors are not particularly grateful, at last, to have a President who is neither too flashy nor too insignificant. It is what they feel entitled to. Nor are electors particularly impressed with the change of foreign policy. After all, Bachar al Assad has never done France any harm and no one really understood the French obsession with deposing him at an enormous cost in human suffering and a tsunami of refugees heading for Europe.
As predicted in the Diplomatic Observer it is domestic policy that is the problem. Here only 23% of those interviewed were satisfied with the direction the country is taking as against 45% for Nicolas Sarkozy at the same time in 2007.
Jérôme Fourquet Director of opinion polling for Ifop commented on the survey ‘The benefits from the presidential election and the parliamentary elections with the appointment of figures from the Right to ministerial office… have evaporated. Even the announcement of the holding of the Olympic Games in Paris has not had a positive effect on opinion. French people are waiting for results and clarification of the proposed reforms.’
What the electorate do know about the intended reforms they do not like. Electors have grasped the fact that the bad news is for today and the good news is for later… maybe. Particularly unpopular was the decrease in the housing allowance by an irrelevant 5€ a month for the poorest and an increase in the CSG tax on pensions. Typical of this jam tomorrow impression is the promise of 2% of GDP to be spent on the armed forces by 2025 and unexpected cuts of €850 million today, accompanied by the fiery resignation of the popular and newly reappointed Chief of the Defense Staff, who learned about the cuts in a newspaper.
In addition, the President’s chosen position at the head of a coalition of Left and Right means inevitably that his policies will displease a part of his original following. Fourquet concludes ‘overall there is a feeling of skepticism’ adding that the President needs to be careful because the public view of a presidency is formed in the first summer in office as Sarkozy and Hollande found out.
But the reality is that Hollande and Sarkozy were not rejected for their personal quirks but because they failed to solve France’s economic problems. Under both mass unemployment grew.
Given the economic position of France and the restrictions imposed by membership of the Euro and the EU, it is not possible to transform the country in three months or three years nor follow policies that are likely to. Macron is a convinced European and is now paying the price of having given the impression that all that was needed was a bright chap like him at the head of affairs and all would instantly be transformed.