Under fire President Emmanuel Macron faces an uphill battle to reform France

 
Julian Harris
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FRANCE-POLITICS
Macron surged to power earlier this year – but his approval ratings have since plummeted (Source: Getty)

It is six months to the day since Emmanuel Macron visited Britain to address a rally of adoring London-based supporters. The energetic President-elect was flying ahead in the polls at the time, his En Marche party undoubtedly Europe’s political movement du jour.

The hype was understandable. A young sharply-dressed fluently multilingual former banker, Macron's brand of pro-European centrism was completely at odds with the nationalist and indeed socialist policies that had re-emerged on both sides of the Atlantic, typically championed by older and less capable candidates from the fringes of the political spectrum.

Macron duly stormed to victory in the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections, marking an astonishing 14 month-period since En Marche was founded in April last year.

However, since then, the tide has sharply turned. Macron's approval ratings have plummeted to an historic low for a new French President as voters doubt whether their wonderboy is up to the job after all.

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Worryingly, several stories behind Macron's dive in the polls are the result of relatively modest attempts to reform French government. His eminently sensible bid to rein in France's annual deficit has prompted a huge row over housing benefit and the resignation of the country's head of the armed forces. Extra powers granted to the government, intended to streamline much-needed labour market reforms, have proven divisive, while Macron's labour minister has become entangled in a scandal relating to her previous career working for Danone.

Many people will say "we told you so". When French delegates travelled to London earlier this year aiming to lure bankers and other City workers to Paris post-Brexit, they were greeted with cynicism. The Macron love-in would likely prove temporary and illusive, Square Mile insiders said, unconvinced that a country so hostile to the financial sector and big business would suddenly become a haven for big investment banks, insurers, and so on.

For Macron, whose approval ratings are even worse than Donald Trump's, the challenge is daunting. Despite winning a landslide parliamentary majority, many of his policies face considerable opposition – a fact now harshly reflected in the polls.

"Theresa May's battles will be fought in parliament," one Parisian commentator recently told City A.M. "But for Macron – his battles will be fought on the street."

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