A few excerpts on the Financial Times views on President Macron.
Macron’s struggle to reboot his flagging presidency
French leader hopes for lift from reform programme but scepticism persists
Ben Hall in Paris OCTOBER 6, 2018
They were the words his supporters were longing to hear: “
People of France, help me.” On a visit to French territories in the Caribbean last month, President Emmanuel Macron came down from his Olympian heights and tried to reconnect with an increasingly dismissive public. After repeated gaffes, a scandal involving a security aide and tensions within his government, Mr Macron has come to be seen as arrogant and out of touch. His tour of the Antilles was supposed to be the reboot.
It was unfortunate, then, that the big talking point of the visit was a selfie of a grinning president flanked by two muscular youths, one brandishing his middle finger. Mr Macron’s critics pounced on an alleged debasement of his office. “Unforgivable!” tweeted Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader.
Mr Macron was dealt a more serious blow a few days later when Gérard Collomb, his interior minister, walked out of the government, publicly rebuffing the president’s appeals for him to stay. It was the third ministerial departure in as many months.
A cruel cartoon in a French newspaper featured the president flanked by two ministers, with Mr Collomb wielding his middle finger.
Despite his attempts to be more in touch with his people, Mr Macron cannot seem to help himself. On a visit to the home village of Charles de Gaulle on Thursday, to celebrate 60 years of France’s fifth republic, the president was reminded of the general’s dictum that the French had no right to complain.
Mr Macron concurred. “The country would be in a different place if we were all like that . . . We don’t realise how lucky we are.”
With his approval rating hovering around 33 per cent, many wonder whether he will fall into the same trap as his recent predecessors — a rapid loss of popularity that saps ambition and leads to defeat.
Mr Macron’s allies say the answer to his difficulties lies in less haughtiness, more disciplined communications and above all sticking to his wide-ranging reform plans to deliver tangible change.
“The French are impatient,” said one official. “They want results. They believed in Emmanuel Macron. They still do. But they are questioning us. They still know the status quo is not sustainable. But they want to know whether it will pay off. There would be nothing worse at this stage than to water things down.”
The government is planning to forge ahead with the next wave of the reform programme. After loosening rules on redundancies and overhauling the state railways, it wants to cut the cost of a generous unemployment insurance system and create more incentives for the jobless to take up work.
It has plans to make the pension system fairer and has embarked on a shake-up of benefits and services to lift more people out of poverty. A bill in parliament contains scores of measures to make it easier to run a business. Its overall impact on growth may be modest but it should lift competitiveness with no cost to the Treasury, according to senior officials.
Some Macron loyalists say it is not just the degree of reform but the way it is put in place that counts — an implied rebuke of a president who seems to want to run the country with a handful of aides from the Elysée Palace.