A little bit of piety can take you a long way—especially if you promised voters a "new way" of politicsby Marie Le Conte / August 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Emmanuel Macron is having fun. The 39-year-old has now been French president for just over 100 days, and he has enjoyed every second of it.
He was lowered from a helicopter into a submarine in July; looked like an extra from Top Gun when he met military personnel later that month; played tennis in a wheelchair to promote Paris’s bid to host the Olympics in 2024.
Even his more somber moments, like the expansive and dull speech he gave to his parliamentarians in Versailles, are tinged with a sense of mischievous self-awareness—“look at how serious I’m being,” the glint in his eye seems to be saying.
His comms operation often capitalises on this, and videos and pictures of him shamelessly flirting with Justin Trudeau or picking up the phone of the Élysée switchboard have swamped the government’s social media channels.
Emmanuel Macron is having fun, but he probably shouldn’t be: his approval ratings are now the lowest for any modern-era president’s first 100 days, sitting at an uncomfortable 36 per cent, and down from 62 per cent when he was first elected.
His government’s record in Parliament doesn’t really explain this vertiginous fall: La Republique En Marche has passed several laws already, including ones on labour reforms and ethics in public life, both of which were important parts of his manifesto.
Then again, Parliament was never going to be the site of his downfall. His party has the kind of majority that probably keeps Theresa May up at night, and both (former) main parties are too consumed by their own post-mortems to form a coherent opposition.
Step away from the national assembly and the picture is already slightly bleaker. Four of Macron’s ministers had to resign early on because of a nascent expenses scandal, an army general quit in protest at the severity of cuts to the military, and the proposed reduction of housing benefits to young people by 5 euro a month inflamed the left.
This doesn’t quite paint the whole picture, however—if he is as talented and charismatic as a breathless press described him during the election campaign, the wonder boy of centrist politics should be able to survive these flesh wounds.