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Why is Emmanuel Macron so disliked by French voters?

French President Emmanuel Macron on June 18, 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron on June 18, 2024. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Isabelle Repiton
Published on Updated
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Analysts say that Macron's decision to dissolve parliament was not understood by French voters.

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French voters' opinion of Emmanuel Macron has only fallen further since he called for snap elections this month, with some criticising him as narcissistic and disconnected.

"The rejection of the president of the Republic has never been so large," said Alain Duhamel, a journalist and political essayist. He is also the author of a recent book on the French president.

Macron's decision to dissolve the National Assembly and call for legislative elections on 30 June and 7 July "symbolises and reinforces this rejection," said Duhamel.

Voters' falling out with Macron was further highlighted by the low score of the president's Renaissance party in the European elections.

The presidential party got just 14.6% of the votes, behind far-right parties which won nearly 40% of the votes, including 31% for the National Rally (RN).

His approval rating has only fallen since, losing between five and seven points to a total of 26-28% depending on the poll.

'Normal' to be unpopular for a French president

It's typical that a surge in popularity following a presidential election gives way to disenchantment among the population.

"All presidents have been unpopular, even [Charles] De Gaulle," Duhamel told Euronews.

Emmanuel Macron's predecessor François Hollande saw his approval rating fall to below 20% during his term as president.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also lost popularity in his country with his approval rating at around 27%, according to an Ipsos poll for Euronews carried out in March 2024.

Among voters who supported him in the first round of the May 2022 presidential elections, Macron's support has dropped by 11 points.

"It is among his electorate that the incomprehension of his decision to dissolve the Assembly is the strongest. It was seen as a betrayal,” Duhamel said.

'Personal hatred of Macron'

France's rejection of Macron goes beyond that of his function, politics, or the wear and tear of a second term and has a "personal dimension," said Duhamel.

His character also irritates the French, with his party's candidates no longer displaying his face on their campaign posters.

Macron's move to dissolve parliament is seen as "a reaction of wounded pride, a lesson to the people who voted badly," the essayist said.

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This idea of giving a lesson to the people continues when Macron says it is their responsibility to vote against right and left extremes in the election.

For some, it reinforces the image of an authoritarian and arrogant leader who pushed unpopular reforms through parliament.

Macron has been criticised for avoiding consultation and for being removed from the concerns of his fellow citizens, with some citing his past as an investment banker.

The president has said he wanted to let Prime Minister Gabriel Attal lead the legislative campaign and yet the president is omnipresent.

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His decision to call for elections has been described by many as a risky endeavour and his presentation of them as a choice between himself or chaos creates concern among French voters and also "animosity and resentment," according to Duhamel.

Popular leader in Europe so far

Emmanuel Macron, nonetheless, is viewed favourably among Europeans and is second-most liked at 41%, just behind Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy at 47%, according to an Ipsos poll for Euronews carried out in March 2024 in 18 countries of the European Union.

But that popularity could decrease if his decision weakens Europe by allowing a far-right government to take power in Paris.

International press have described his decision as risky and a danger for the EU.

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Yet maybe it is the French who should be blamed, an Italian columnist argues in the liberal daily Il Foglio.

He says that the French hate Macron as "they elected a reformist even though they hate change".

This article was translated from French. The original can be found here.

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