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Why Macron's Popularity Is on the Rise Again

Why Macron's Popularity Is on the Rise Again

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017 - 12:45
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Emmanuel Macron, France's youngest ever president turns 40 this week and he turned around his flagging popularity rating with rising poll numbers and a growing international reputation.

A few months ago, French President Emmanuel Macron looked to have lost his Midas touch. But as he turns 40 this week, he has rising poll numbers and a growing international reputation to celebrate.

Seven months into his presidency, the centrist has forced through a first wave of pro-business reforms with only mild resistance and has reversed what some feared might be a terminal slide in his popularity.

A survey out on Tuesday by the Odoxa polling company showed that 54 percent of French people had a positive view of him, up nine points in a month, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has an approval rating of 57 percent.

"Before they used to fall and then never come back, but he's rebounding," Pascal Perrineau, a veteran political science professor at Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP.

In August and September, Macron was polling in the mid-30s, a record slump for a new president which seemed to show that grumpy French were already fed up with their new and inexperienced leader.

Many commentators viewed him as detached from the everyday concerns of average citizens, while others denounced his tax and economic plans as mainly benefiting the well-off.

But the turnaround in his fortunes has led to a reappraisal of France's youngest-ever president, who will celebrate his 40th birthday on Thursday.

The reasons include his assured handling of the recent deaths of two major cultural figures, the writer Jean d'Ormesson and the singer Johnny Hallyday -- a rock icon for whom hundreds of thousands turned out on the streets of Paris in tribute.

Macron also continues to benefit from the weakness of his political opponents and divisions among the country's once-mighty trade unions, which have shown plenty of bark but no bite over his first pro-market reforms.

Meanwhile, France is showing its strongest economic growth in years and the wider European area is pulling out of its stagnation since the 2008-09 financial crisis.

But analysts and observers see at least three other reasons for the Macron recovery which reveal more about the sort of president the French elected when they voted for the little-known former economy minister in May.

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