President Emmanuel Macron Thursday suggested that the French complain too much, giving his opponents yet another opportunity to say he’s condescending.
As he worked a crowd at a ceremony in tribute to French WWII leader General de Gaulle in eastern France, a group of pensioners complained to him about their monthly payments. Macron recounted how de Gaulle’s grandson had just told him that with the late general, “‘we could speak freely, the only thing you couldn’t do was complain.’ I think it was a good practice of the General. The country would be better if we were like that.”
The French President went on to say that people don’t realize they’re “lucky” to live in France, relative to past generations, with a longer life expectancy than in many other places -- 79.5 years for men and 85.4 years for women, according to the latest statistics.
Comments like those have pulled the the president’s poll numbers down. According to Elabe poll for Les Echos and Radio Classique published on Thursday, Macron’s approval rating has fallen 1 point to 30 percent.
Still, the remarks are consistent with the French leader’s stance since he was elected: he’s here to reform the country’s economy in depth and can’t be bothered by his sinking polls or manifestations of discontent.
'I have a big advantage, I don’t have any mid-terms elections. So I am not driven by polls,' Macron said in an interview last week with Bloomberg. “I have to reform the country in depth. We will keep exactly the same pace,” he said, adding that he’s planning to make changes to address the energy sector, unemployment insurance and the pension systems.
The president does have his supporters. While some people in the crowd continued to tell him their pensions were too small, others asked him to keep on his path of liberalizing the French economy.
For all that, Macron’s latest comments were once more expected to provide fodder for political opponents and commentators who pillory his blunt style, calling it aloof and arrogant.
France’s all-news stations all gave wide coverage to the comments, which followed Macron telling an unemployed young man last month that all he had to do was “cross the road” to find work, and suggesting during an August trip to Copenhagen that the French were reluctant to embrace change, unlike his Danish hosts.
“It was a very nice ceremony, but all we’ll remember from it are these improvised words,” Jean-Michel Djian, a professor of political communication at Paris VIII University, said on BFM TV.
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