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Emmanuel Macron and his domestic policy

Mr. Emanuel Macron, President of France

A group of female workers in helmets and protective gear wanted to pose with Macron. “You’re ours, the women of Aluminum Dunkerque told him!” he said, having great fun. Standing amid the throng of factory workers in the port city of Dunkirk, the French president was in his element. He shook hands with the workers, answered questions, and took lots of selfies. “Other questions?” . But he didn’t address the elephant in the room. And none of the workers spoke about the unpopular and controversial pension reform. No one dared spoil the inauguration of the city’s battery gigafactory project. In recent weeks, President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a tour of France, visiting local communities in what he called an attempt to “engage” with people after heated debate over his controversial pension reform. France has been seriously rocked by protests following the French president’s decision to bypass parliament and push through a reform that raises the retirement age to 64 from 62. The implementation of the reform was seen as another manifestation of the famous “Jupiterian” style of government—a vertical, top-down way of running the country. Although nationwide protests have subsided since the reform was legislated in April, Macron’s visits have been accompanied by ad hoc demonstrations organized by trade unionists. In the eastern region of Alsace, Macron faced booing and blackouts during his visit to a factory in the area. For the French president, that meant taking a closer look at visits. Meetings with the public are meticulously organized to avoid an image deficit. The visits were only announced at the last minute.

In Dunkirk, more than 1,000 police officers were deployed to secure the area visited by the president, erecting barricades, closing streets, and banning cars from the city center. Such scenes are unusual in France, where presidents used to mingle with the crowd. At the end of the visit, POLITICO was able to approach the French president to ask him about his image campaign. “Of course, it’s great… I try to reach out to people to explain the consistency of what we’re doing. We get results when we are consistent,” he said. On his difficulties connecting with the public, Macron said: “My visits are simple… The overwhelming majority of French people may be against pension reform… But I don’t confuse people who disagree with me with the small minority who are prone to disrespect and invective.” As well as touring the country in recent weeks, Macron has relentlessly attacked the media sphere, giving multiple interviews to French and international media as he presented a series of government proposals to improve education, tackle immigration, and tackle industry. “Emmanuel Macron has apparently adopted a very effective strategy. Through his presence in the mass media, the visits to the territory, and the explanation of the new proposals, he managed to impose a new agenda”, said Bruno Cautrès, political researcher at Sciences Po University. “But the data shows that the public hasn’t moved on,” he added. This month, several polls showed that most French people still support the protest movement against the president’s reforms. Even as nationwide protests over pension reform have subsided, concerns are growing about rising violence. The southern city of Avignon was filled last week with dozens of posters depicting the French president as Hitler. In the same week, Brigitte Macron’s great-grandson was assaulted in Macron’s hometown of Amiens.

By Sara Colin

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