LE HAVRE, France – A huge fan of President Emmanuel Macron of France, Nicole Liot was smiling after seeing him at a recent campaign stop. But she is also worried about the final round of the French elections this Sunday. In her life, she had never seen some French people hate the president so fiercely.
“There are presidents who are not hated like this even though they are not saints,” said 80-year-old Liot, describing what have been called “small phrases.” Macron’s has aroused antipathy. “Like when he says to someone, ‘Are you looking for a job? Just cross the street and you will find one. “
As anti-Macron protesters burned tires and billowed smoke in the skies above the northwestern city of Le Havre, Ms Liot added, “Perhaps people won’t forgive him for his mistakes in terms of politics. this language and attitude.”
No French president has been the object of such intense hate among significant segments of the population as Mr. Macron – as a result, experts say his image as an elitist, not contact the ordinary Frenchman whose pension and job protection he has threatened in his efforts to make the economy more investor-friendly.
How deep that hideous run is will be a key factor – maybe even a deciding factor – in the election against his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen. Recently poll giving Macron a lead of about 10 percentage points – wider than by some points during the election campaign, but only a third of his win rate five years ago.
Nicolas Domenach, a veteran political journalist who has covered five French presidents in the past and co-authored the book “Macron: Why So Many Hatred? a book published recently. “It stems from a particular association. He is the president of the rich and the president of contempt.”
Without a doubt, Mr. Macron can win re-election even though he is unpopular. Even if a group of voters do not go to the polls because the him, it is important to him that enough voters turn out to vote against she – come build a “dam” against the right.
It was an age-old strategy to build a so-called “Republican Front” against a political force – her party, the National Rally, formerly the National Front – seen as a threat to French democracies.
But given the choice between a president they consider scornful and a far-right candidate they find abhorrent, many French voters may just stay at home, or even vote for Ms. an election is near.
Every chance she gets, Ms. Le Pen does her best to remind voters of these “terrible words” – “scornful words” – that now stick to Mr Macron, just as she did. did at a big campaign rally in the southern city. by Avignon last week.
“Those are the words of a power that has no sympathy,” she said as the crowd booed.
Both she and Mr. Macron are now compete in the closing days of the campaign for voters who voted for other candidates in the first round of the presidential election on April 10, whose election is currently underway.
Roland Lescure, a lawmaker and spokesman for Mr Macron’s party, La République en Marche, said he believes the “rejection of Marine Le Pen” will prove stronger than dislike for the president. , which he realized.
The refusal, he said, is not just Le Pen’s person, “but above all an ideology, a political history and a platform that, when one reads it, is deeply damaging.”
But Ms. Le Pen became very confident in her growing attractiveness after calculated steps to soften her image that she even dared to embrace the term “dam” for herself – begging voters six times during her rally to build a “dam against Macron.”
Calls for dams by both sides underscore how the vote ultimately led to an unpopular run: The less popular candidate wins.
That’s especially true in this race, which featured finalists like 2017. But if Le Pen was seen then as the bulldozer of far-right ideology, in the current campaign, she tried to present a softer, more personal face.
And if Mr. Macron was once seen as a fresh face who inspired many with his promise to change an already dry France, this time he has been seen by his haters as a evil king.
When Mr. Macron finally enters the race, he is confronting the raw emotions that have shaped much of his presidency.
Things to know about the French presidential election
“I have never seen a president of the Fifth Republic as bad as you,” a man told him during a campaign shutdown last week, accusing him of “arrogance” and “contempt” among other things. Mr. Macron could clearly see the discomfort as he made a circular motion around his right temple with his index finger.
In the impoverished, de-industrialized north – a stronghold of Le Pen – Mr Macron was so unpopular that he even lost home, Amiens, in the first round. In a regional city, Denain, a woman who urged him to stop campaigning, was strongly criticized for his presidency, his handling of the pandemic and schools.
“You’re not living in the real world,” Mr Macron told the woman, who was taken aback and replied, “We don’t live in the real world? Are you telling us that, Mr. Macron? “
In Argenteuil, an impoverished suburb of Paris, Claudine Pasquier, a retired school secretary carrying two bags of groceries, explained Mr. Macron’s “small phrases” – like when he called Train stations put “where one meets people who are successful and those who are nothing” or refer to “bulk powder“Spend for the benefit of the poor.
“We remember all these little phrases because they humiliated people,” Ms. Pasquier said. She voted for Mr Macron in 2017, but it is still undecided now, she added.
Pierre Rosanvallon, a historian and sociologist at College de Francesays the small phrases have been a “catastrophe” in faking Mr Macron’s image and fostering a widespread sense of disdain that he sees as a central factor in French politics and society today.
“It is a relationship between a despised upper class and a despised society,” he said.
Mr Rosanvallon noted that “disdain” was also deep-rooted among Ms Le Pen’s core supporters – although it was aimed at migrants, expats and others seen as morally inferior society. Ms. Le Pen has said she will increase the benefits of people like those who vote for her by taking them from immigrants.
Le Pen has captured the power of this dynamic, Mr. Rosanvallon said, and understands that economic hardship is not just about money, but needs to be addressed “in terms of dignity, respect, feelings sense of abandonment. ”
Mr. Lescure, Mr. Macron’s party spokesman, said much of the anger against the president stems from a misunderstanding of his operating style, which he compared to that of former presidents Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand – two people called Monarch of the Republican Party is also considered aloof.
“When he is described as arrogant, aloof and even arrogant, I think it is also because his practice of power is much less common, in the sense of being people-oriented, than with others,” he said.
It has left many supporters of the previous president dismissed.
At Ms Le Pen’s rally in Avignon, Rachida Saidj, 53, said she voted for Mr Macron in 2017 as part of a far-right dam. This time, she voted for the Greens in the first round and – faced with a choice “between plague and cholera” – planned to vote for Ms Le Pen as part of the anti-cholera front. Macron.
“He said everything and vice versa, he looked down on many people,” said Ms Saidj, adding that Mr Macron had acted like “a king”.
In Le Havre, another staunch Macron supporter, Bilel Benaouda, a 22-year student and soon-to-be entrepreneur, is also worried. He voted for Mr. Macron in the first round. But his brother and most of the people around him approved of Mr. Mélenchon and now intend to stay home for the second round.
“Last time, the election was anti-Le Pen,” Mr. Benaouda said. “But this time, it’s about both anti-Le Pen and anti-Macron.”
Norimitsu Onishi reported from Le Havre, and Constant Méheut from Argenteuil and Avignon.