Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has fallen a record 24 points in two months. Only 40% of those polled say they are satisfied with the country’s youngest ever president, according to an Ifop poll published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche. Fifty-seven percent said they are dissatisfied with the job he is doing.
The poll comes just days before France goes back to work after the traditional August vacation break. In September, Macron plans on imposing tough labor reforms through decree but will face major opposition in the streets: Unions plan to march on September 12th and the leftist opposition Insoumis Party is calling for a protest on the 23rd.
Civil servants are angry at proposed wage freezes and cutting the public sector by 120,000 jobs. A fifth of the country’s work force are on the public payroll. Macron complained last week that “France is un-reformable” but intends to keep his promise of making it easier and less expensive to lay-off workers and to hire them for multiple temporary contracts. He also wants companies to be able to negotiate with workers independently, reducing the power of unions to control whole industrial sectors. “France hates reforms,” the president said. “They need explanations.”
Unemployment remains stubbornly high at around 10%, with 25% of the youth jobless. The country’s debt is nearly 100% of GDP. Macron has promised to reduce spending by 60 billion Euros in the next five years and bring the deficit below the 3% of GDP ceiling imposed by the Maastricht Treaty; a goal the country may miss again this year.
Macron is turning to Europe for help but his heated row last week with Poland over ‘posted workers’, those paid lower wages in their home countries to work in other EU countries, demonstrates he faces tough opposition, not only at home, but within the EU as well.
In France, magistrates and human rights groups have criticized his decision to make the ‘State of Emergency’ part of the common law and setting up a Presidential Task Force with the administrative power to ban protests, raid and search homes, detain and put people under house arrest without judicial over-sight. They complain the measure adopted to fight terrorism has been abused. Amnesty International wrote: “Under the cover of the state of emergency, rights to protest have been stripped away with hundreds of activists, environmentalists, and labour rights campaigners unjustifiably banned from participating in protests.”
Over three million people signed a petition in just two weeks in August protesting the creation of an ‘official First Lady status’ but Macron did it any way. Last week the Elysées Palace confessed Emmanuel Macron has spent 30,000 Euros on make-up in his first three months in office. He has also been severely criticized by pundits for refusing to talk to the press. After the Ifop poll, he may well decide it is time to talk.