100 days of Emmanuel Macron: Achievements and Failures

17 august 2017

Arnaud Dubien - Head, French-Russian Analytical Center “Observo”.

Resume: In general the first 100 days of Emmanuel Macron in the presidential office are perceived in France as quite successful.

In general the first 100 days of Emmanuel Macron in the presidential office are perceived in France as quite successful. But the first difficulties have already appeared, as evidenced by recent French public opinion polls. And they turned out to be quite accurate, as the events of May and June showed. These polls show a decline of confidence, the biggest in the history of the Fifth Republic. Now 36% of respondents express confidence to Macron, which is below the level of Francois Hollande after his 100 days.

The foreign policy steps of the current president met the greatest approval by the French society: the reception of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versailles at the end of May, the invitation of US President Donald Trump to the military parade on the Champs-Élysées on July 14. Macron’s attempts to bring France back to the center of the international activity met positive reaction. Also generally positive - except the Paris media and some experts - the society reacted to a turn toward pragmatism on the Syrian issue. Apparently, by appealing to de Gaulle's and Mitterrand's diplomatic legacy, that is, France's return to more traditional foreign policy, Macron publicly and unequivocally rejected the neo-conservatism ideology, which added popularity to him, even outside his electorate.

Clouds begin to thicken over the Elysee Palace on domestic political and socio-economic issues. Maybe during the election campaign, Macron, unlike another candidate François Fillon, did not want to frighten the population with the real situation, the present state of affairs and the necessary resulted measures. Accordingly, many were unpleasantly surprised by the prospect of tightening the belts.

There are specific moments that have caused damage to the ratings and the image of Macron as president. First, it is a public squabble with the head of the French General Staff and the resignation of Pierre de Villiers. Emmanuel Macron decided that the military budget would go under sequestration, although before that he had promised the military to preserve the budget. Many Frenchmen were shocked by the public humiliation of General Pierre de Villiers. The incident was perceived as an infantile manifestation of authoritarianism by a person who did not serve in the army. Macron is the first president in the history of France without military experience. He was also accused of a global misunderstanding of the role and importance of the army for the Fifth Republic. It is necessary to take into account that the popularity and respect for the French army as an institution grew up especially after the military began patrolling streets in the cities in order to prevent terrorist attacks. This is his first critical error.

After that began claims and protests of various groups of the population on tax issues. In particular, pensioners opposed the strengthening of the tax burden. Mayors, especially of small towns and settlements (they form the backbone of France) - sharply criticized the subsidies cuttings, which seem to them enormous.

The blatant incompetence of many newly elected representatives to the National Assembly, which represented the presidential movement and were personally selected by Macron at the election stage, had a very negative effect on the president's image. This inexperience is a kind of reverse side and the price of the renewal requests and demands for the “fresh blood”. It came to the point that the vice-speaker of the National Assembly did not know the session rules, and the chairman of the Lawmaking Committee did not know the existing legislation and the procedure for passing laws.

The autumn promises to be hot, because in September the adoption of hard-hitting laws is expected, including the flagship reform of the Labor Code. In this connection it is possible to forecast large-scale manifestations and activation of both the left opposition and the National Front.

In general, in these 100 days Emmanuel Macron managed to gather around him liberals from the right and from the left. The geography and sociology of his support almost coincides with the results of the referendum on the European Constitution in 2005, which means, that Macron is the leader of successful France, of the big cities benefiting from globalization. The problem is that this France does not represent the majority of the population.

Macron is so far lucky that the opposition forces are fragmented and other parties have not yet recovered from the defeat in the presidential election, but this situation is unlikely to last long.

The Valdai Discussion Club

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