On 7 May 2017, Emmanuel Macron was elected as French president. The youngest French ruler (at 39 – today is his birthday, he is turning 40) since Napoléon, he proceeded to win a majority in the House and reshape France’s international status. His approval ratings then plummeted in the summer, after it became clear that he wasn’t living up to his promises on feminism, immigration, budget, and more.
Undeniably, Macron has had a great year – but here are some of the missteps, soundbites and other comments that slip through his business-like media strategy and painted a more complex, and slightly less heroic, picture of the shiny French president.
In June, Macron said this while visiting a fishing centre in Britanny. It was insensitive and racist, but especially shocking as his turn of phrase (“du Comorien”) implied that Comorian migrants were cargo, not people.
In November, the president attended the launch of France’s main foodbank’s winter campaign, where he met a woman who introduced herself as a migrant from Morocco. To her question regarding his immigration policy, Macron replied with the above. Le Monde has since described his government’s immigration stance as a “severity without precedent”.
On class and the poor
A classic case of “those who say it are it” right here from president Macron. Attacked for wanting to stop a programme of subsidised employment, Macron said this while visiting the north of France, where unemployment tops 13 per cent in some areas.
In July, Macron said that train stations were wonderful places, for there is where you cross paths with “people who succeed” (that is, people like him) and “people who are nothing” (the rest of the French people, apparently).
On his opposition
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon? “He’s acting like one of these African leaders who have lost an election. It’s good luck he doesn’t have the army with him!”
In September, in an extremely classy move, Macron compared his former presidential rival and one of his main opposition to an African leader. He added that “revolutionaries are often losers of the universal suffrage” and asked his close advisers to “watch [Mélenchon] to be able to jump on him at the first mistake he makes”. Classy, we tell ya.
In September, because the French practiced their national sport – nationwide strikes – against his labour reform, Macron decided to call the protesters names, something that, surprisingly, didn’t go down well with said protesters.
In October, Macron doubled down, declaring this about workers and union representatives from a car factory in Corrèze who had tried to talk to him during a visit in the region, and had been repressed with tear-inducing gas by the police. When asked about this phrase on TV later that month, he said: “When one gets close to the truth [by saying such a thing], one gets burned.” Not exactly an apology.
On France’s post-colonialism
Macron’s address at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July. It may have been well-meaning, but it was super racist.
Visiting French Guyana in October, Macron told locals in Maripasoula that he couldn’t make miracles happen regarding their concerns, like basic transport (there is no road linking Maripasoula, a town deep in the Amazon forest, to the rest of Guyana, it is only accessible by helicopter) or trafficking (the border with Surinam is a river easily crossed by boat, which brings all kinds of illegal drugs). Guess we’ll ask actual Santa then.
Visiting Burkina Faso in November, Macron made a joke to the Burkinabé president that, according to several commentators, carried colonial residue.
Macron to a young Algerian, while visiting Algeria in November. Here’s a detailed explanation of all the things wrong with his post-colonialism.
On the media
Translation: “Don’t try and give me lessons when you’re just as biased as I am.” An anecdote from the book Un personnage de roman, by author Philippe Besson who followed Macron’s campaign, published in September.
Macron, who has promised a deep reform of the French broadcaster, said this in December during a private speech on the media. He then denied saying it. Too bad, Télérama had a detailed analysis of his quote: “The public broadcaster, it’s a shame for our citizens, a shame in terms of governing.” A week later, Macron gave a TV interview, widely criticised for being over-indulgent… to France 2, which is part of the public broadcaster.
Typical Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron talking about himself. That was back in May, right after his victory, when he compared himself to Jupiter, ruling Roman god. Everything is normal, no one is drunk on power.
Engulfed in a row with one of France’s highest general on military budget cuts, Macron addressed the army in July in this petty, and ultimately very damaging (the general resigned) reminder of his power as head of the armies. No matter that “not humiliating a general in front of his troops” is Presidenting 101.
What’s that to do with Macron, you think? In Besson’s book, Macron reflects on his campaign team turned political party, the start up-inspired En Marche!, composed mostly of middle class, educated young people. The EXACT SAME as young soldiers fighting WARS for an EMPIRE. And Napoléon? Well, of course, he’s Macron himself.
Happy birthday, Mr President! I truly cannot wait to discover who you’ll compare yourself to next year.