As a naturalised Frenchman, and the holder of dual French-Irish nationality, who voted for Emmanuel Macron in both rounds of last year’s presidential election, I have deep-seated sympathy for the president’s current predicament in the face of the “yellow vest revolt”.
Francis Ghilès ( Letters, December 6) calls on Mr Macron “to eat humble pie” and abandon his Louis XIV-like attitude. This is somewhat disingenuous, since behaving like a monarch is exactly what large sections of the French population, and even many of the gilets jaunes themselves, expect him to do. His predecessor in office, François Hollande, was unfairly subjected to much ridicule for daring to be an “ordinary” president.
This expectation is strengthened still further by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which gives sweeping executive powers to the president who consequently is like Queen Elizabeth II and prime minister Theresa May, or Irish president Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, rolled into one. The French president is thus both a head of state and a hands-on politico who has to get his hands dirty in the cut and thrust of daily politics.
On November 11, in front of an impressive assembly of world leaders, Mr Macron stood in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to celebrate the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, and exactly three weeks later he was back at the Arc de Triomphe to inspect the havoc wreaked by the worst street violence Paris has seen in 50 years. This dual role is monarchical in nature and can be a two-edged sword for any incumbent.
The revolt of the gilets jaunes has violently thrust to the forefront a number of genuine grievances which could be addressed by imaginative political willpower but which will certainly not be solved by Mr Macron saying “oui” to every item in a catchall bag of demands, often contradictory and sometimes unfounded.
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