Emmanuel Macron’s future in doubt as President faced major ‘dilemma’ before vaccine crisis
Macron slammed by French residents for slow EU vaccine rollout
Mr Macron was ruthlessly attacked after he claimed the AstraZeneca vaccine seemed to be “quasi-ineffective” for those above the age of 65, a comment made just before the EU approved its usage on all adults in the bloc. The Frenchman’s remark saw an already fierce dispute between AstraZeneca, the UK and the EU deepen, with the bloc demanding the pharmaceutical company divert UK-made jabs. The request was made as a manufacturing shortfall inside Europe had sent member states into panic over when their citizens would receive a vaccination.
Mr Macron risked the anger of other EU nations, as well as the bloc’s drug regulator, as he said “the real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work in the way we were expecting it to”.
His approval rating was already declining, and Mr Macron was expected to be firm in his handling of the coronavirus vaccination rollout particularly as France heads to the polls next year.
But with France lagging well behind nations such as the UK in terms of the number of individuals who have received the jab, two recent surveys show his popularity with the French is diminishing.
Harris Interactive found in a study last month that 55 percent of the 1,017 polled disapproved of the President, with 45 percent approving.
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An even more worrying poll by Ipsos, which surveyed 1,000 people, saw just 35 percent approve of Mr Macron.
And while he faced the challenge of the fallout from the vaccine row, Mr Macron was told he faced a major “dilemma” as his popularity took another blow last year.
Reports showed Mr Macron was considering replacing Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, as he wanted to try and stretch the support for his En Marche! centrist group.
Mr Philippe is considered by many as a centre-right politician, which insiders have suggested has not struck a positive tone with the party’s voters.
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Yet, at the time of Mr Macron’s deliberations, Mr Philippe was riding a wave of popularity in France, as an Ifop survey claimed the Prime Minister had an approval rating of 50 percent, while Mr Macron’s sat at 38 percent.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at the research firm Eurasia Group, said Mr Macron was “certainly tempted to make a change”, adding: “But, Philippe is very popular.
“Dumping him (even amicably) will be risky. Keeping him is also problematic, if his popularity puts Macron in the shade.”
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But Mr Macron was left “facing a dilemma”, Antonio Barroso – managing director of research firm Teneo argued when interviewed on CNBC.
He added: “The COVID-19 crisis has boosted Philippe’s approval ratings, so replacing him could be negatively perceived by the public.
“But Philippe is clearly placed on the centre-right, which might make it difficult for Macron to expand his support base if he does not change his Prime Minister.
“Macron will likely try to turn the economic slowdown into an advantage by pushing for policies that could help him to be perceived as an efficient crisis manager.”
Mr Philippe resigned in July before successfully winning the 2020 Le Harve mayoral elections.
Many consider next year’s election in France too tight to call, with some expecting Mr Macron to face defeat to conservative Marine Le Pen, particularly as no President has won a second term in 20 years.
Another challenge faced in next year’s election will be the rise of euroscepticism, led by figures such as Ms Le Pen.
While President, Mr Macron has continued to try and show how being part of the bloc is better than being out of it.
He has vowed to make France an even bigger voice inside the bloc, and used his presence in the trade talks to complain about fishing rights post-Brexit in British waters.
Yet, his involvement caused Irish fishermen to turn on Mr Macron, arguing the new pact over fishing between the UK and EU demonstrated the “duplicitous nature of the protracted negotiations”.
Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation – Ireland’s largest fishermen’s representative body – added that the “repeated guarantees” made to those in the Irish trade had effectively been broken.
Fellow critic, skipper Seamus Molloy, also condemned France, telling Afloat.ie that the nation was “militant enough and seem to get what they want all the time”.
He added: “We have seen Macron intervene with Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] and whatever happened between the two of them, this wasn’t on the table.
“The Irish seem to have been sacrificed across the board – we seem to have lost a large part of our mackerel quota and prawn quota.”
The trade deal will see the EU handing back 25 percent of its share of the catch in UK waters over a five-and-a-half year transition period.
Annual negotiations on some 100 shared stocks will take place from 2026.
Although some in France are opposed to Frexit, a poll in May 2020, showed that around three in five people in the country said they didn’t trust Brussels.
The Jacques Delors Institute’s study indicated that the lack of trust in the EU rose by 10 points since Mr Macron was first elected in 2017.
Of those asked, 32 percent said they did trust the EU while the final 10 percent didn’t express an opinion.
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