Geopolitics

Macron's Unpopularity And The Timeless Wisdom Of Machiavelli

After 17 months in power, Emmanuel Macron is touching the depths of unpopularity. He still has ways to bounce back, but should start by re-reading the author of 'The Prince.'

Protest in Strasbourg on Oct. 9
Elsa Freyssenet

PARIS — Even if you haven't read Machiavelli, you probably know the timeless saying proposed by the author of The Prince, that it is "much safer to be feared than loved." But it's worth remembering a less quoted and more nuanced passage in the book, a few pages later: "The best possible fortress is to not be hated by the people, because even if you hold the strongest fortresses, when the people hate you, they will not save you."

Amid last week's theatrical resignation of his Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, French President Emmanuel Macron may have remembered these two kernels of wisdom from the illustrious Florentine (whom he has read and written about extensively). If feared, the so-called "Jupiterian" president will be held in lower esteem by those political actors close to him. If simply beloved, he risks no longer garnering full respect. Right now, he is neither.

The critical zone is 25%

In this chaotic autumn, 17 months after his historic election, pollsters have sounded the alarm. The head of state's support in September dropped to between 25-33%, depending on the polling house. "The critical zone is 25%, because it's a bit of a trap," says Brice Teinturier, of Ipsos polling institute, noting that a president virtually has no way to bounce back from a level of unpopularity that low.

Macron is coping with two handicaps that are telling in terms of opinion: first, his level of popularity is close to his score of the first round of the presidential election (24%); second, his primary supporters are faltering. His political base, who voted for him in April 2017, still holds the majority, though less and less unanimously. What's even more worrisome is that the demographic profiles that brought him to power (executives, university graduates, optimists) are beginning to voice their disapproval.

The stories of the two previous presidents are not reassuring. The plummet of unpopularity happens fast: It occurred at the turn of the year 2007-2008 for Nicolas Sarkozy, and from the beginning of 2012 for François Hollande. In each case, voters returned to their initial opinions of year 1 for both presidents, and even deepened them. "One year to eighteen months is the end of the observation phase, the moment when many vague ideas about a president crystallize," says Emmanuel Rivière of Kanter Sofres, which also runs regular political surveys in France.

Macron in focus — Photo: Official Facebook page

Disappointment begins with economic grievances, mixed with a general feeling of iniquity. Sarkozy was branded by supporting tax breaks for the wealthy, François Hollande alienated the middle classes by the tax hike of his first budget, and Emmanuel Macron inherited the label of "president of the rich" by ending a longstanding tax on wealth.

This label of "president of the rich," is widespread and deep-rooted, according to pollsters. Whether the label is fair or not, the perception is a contagious and powerful one, and the citizen grumbling opens the door for judgments on the overall style and nature of his leadership — as Macron is increasingly described as authoritarian and arrogant.

"The French want a leader, but not a monarch, someone who trains them without teaching them," says Teinturier.

An ally of the president says comparisons to his predecessor are off the mark: "Macron was elected by defeating all the laws of old politics, so we cannot compare him to former presidents."

The personal dimension has taken precedence.

Macron's greatest asset may be the sense of hope that got him elected on his first run for office of any kind. "The French really want something to happen," notes Emmanuel Rivière.

For Bernard Sananès of Elabe consulting: "It's going to be a lot more about economic results and purchasing power, (but) the personal dimension has taken precedence in criticizing the content of politics."

Another factor working in Macron's favor is the fragmentation of his opposition. A minister summarizes the advantage as follows: "At 30%, when you are two, you are a minority — four, you are first. And then, no personality embodies an alternative for voters who do not want extremes. Not yet."

A friend of the president warns, "It's a big mistake to think all is OK because there's no alternative leader. It would be to deny what Emmanuel Macron managed to do in the 2017 election, that is, pulling off a surprise." Remarking on the vulnerabilities of new principalities, the master Machiavelli put it another way: "A mutation always leaves behind stones of expectations for a new mutation."

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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