Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. International Politics
  2. French Election 2022
10 January 2022updated 11 Jan 2022 10:27am

Why Emmanuel Macron’s war on the unvaccinated makes electoral sense

French voters are increasingly impatient with the unvaccinated – a factor which could help Macron at the polls.

By Ido Vock

BERLIN – Nearly half of French voters (46 per cent) support making patients who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 pay their hospital bills, a poll for the TV channel BFMTV shows, with 53 per cent opposed. 

Few serious figures have so far proposed such a policy, though it would echo a similar plan by Singapore’s government, which as of December will not cover the medical bills of Covid patients who are “unvaccinated by choice”. 

Yet the polling provides useful context for the incendiary comments made last week by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in which he declared his intention to continue to “piss off” (emmerder) the unvaccinated. As the pandemic enters its third year, goodwill towards the unjabbed is in short supply. According to the same BFMTV poll, 47 per cent say they are “not shocked” by Macron’s comments. 

[See also: As Covid-19 surges in Europe, Emmanuel Macron’s bet on vaccine passports appears prescient]

Macron’s war on the unvaccinated is thus a political calculation, possibly as much as a public health measure. The president’s comments last week were designed to appeal to his supporters, who are among the most likely to support a tough line on the unimmunised. They forced his rivals for this year’s presidential election to openly take a position if they wished to criticise his crude comments: an inherently electorally risky proposition, as about 90 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated, in large part because of France’s vaccine passport scheme. 

The strongest opposition to the president’s health pass policy has come from the far right and far left, which tend to agree that vaccine passports are discriminatory and ineffective. “There is no need to uphold a climate of vaccine class war in our country,” the far-right firebrand Éric Zemmour wrote last month, declaring himself opposed to vaccine passports. His rival to the far right, Marine Le Pen, and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, say they will abolish the passports if elected.

But in France, as in many countries where immunisation rates are about as high as they can be expected to go without significant compulsion, standing up for the rights of the unvaccinated can have only limited electoral appeal, because the primary constituency it targets is so marginal. Even accounting for those reluctantly vaccinated because of policies designed to coerce take-up, the share of voters they represent will only be a fraction of that sympathising with harsh rhetoric against the unvaccinated. 

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

The president’s comments were crude and shocking. But they may prove electorally beneficial as the campaign for April’s election gets going in earnest.

[See also: Emmanuel Macron’s vow to “piss off” the unvaccinated won’t convince many – but that’s not the point]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Topics in this article: ,