Why do the French hate Macron so much?

Over the last five years, French President Emmanuel Macron has inspired a rare form of hostility even in a country that is famous for loving to hate its leaders.

Why do the French hate Macron so much?
Emmanuel Macron. Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP

His polarising effect on voters has sparked myriad media articles, books and countless TV debates, none more so than during the violent “yellow vest” protests against him in 2018-19.

“There’s a sort of hatred that he concentrates that we’d never encountered before,” veteran journalist Nicolas Domenach, who has written a second book on the 44-year-old, told AFP.

“It’s something that has been present throughout his term in office and comes to the surface quite brutally,” added the co-author of “Macron: Why So Much Hatred?”

Only ex-president Charles de Gaulle inspired such visceral rejection by part of the population while in power, Domenach said, mainly because he granted independence to Algeria in 1962, which was viewed by critics as a betrayal.

Yet so far, an average of polls shows Macron him with a narrow lead of 55 percent versus 45 percent for Le Pen going into Sunday’s vote.

Some have theorised that Macron’s “top of the class” persona rubs some people up the wrong way, as does his uncompromising way of talking and intensely centralised style of governing.

His association with finance and business thanks to a stint at the Rothschild bank, coupled with his schooling in top universities, also make him elitist in the eyes of many.

READ ALSO 5 things you didn’t know about Emmanuel Macron

This was reinforced by major gaffes early in his term such as when he told an unemployed gardener he could simply “cross the road” and find him a job.

“He crystallises a sort of class hatred that is very deeply rooted in French society,” said historian Jean Garrigues, who is researching the role of hatred in politics for a new book.

“He appears to some as an almost archetypical example of the privileged and elite classes, the French of the rich,” he told AFP.

Protests against Macron have regularly seen a return of the imagery of the ultimate class conflict: the 1789 French Revolution that saw the monarchy deposed and king Louis XVI beheaded.

Effigies of Macron have been guillotined in public, while pictures of his face were stuck atop spikes during some “yellow vest” marches.

“There was a revolutionary dimension to it, a spirit of insurrection,” Igor Maquet, a veteran of the “yellow vest” protests in Nantes, western France, told AFP.

Le Pen, despite coming from a far more privileged and Parisian background than her opponent, has sought to portray herself as a voice of the downtrodden.

READ ALSO 5 things you didn’t know about Marine Le Pen

But while Macron might be repellent for some, he scores much better than Le Pen in polls on other crucial measures such as perceptions of competency and having the stature of a president.

With her background in France’s xenophobic far right, Le Pen meanwhile is seen as “worrying” by as much as half the population, polls suggest.

Macron’s aides and friends have always been exasperated by his image, which they say contrasts with the charming and good-natured person they know in private.

“Macron loves people,” a senior MP told AFP recently, adding that the president and his wife Brigitte were bothered by the “gap” between his real personality and his political persona.

“He has huge ability to be empathetic but he still has this damned image of arrogance,” the MP added on condition of anonymity.

Macron himself theorised before being elected that the French were “regicidal monarchists” who loved electing a king-like president only to reject them.

“French political culture is extremely violent,” he told Le Point magazine last week. “I am very clear-eyed about that.”

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Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers – French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

From coffee runs to rugby tickets and professional photos - France's election financing body has revealed some of the items it has refused to reimburse from the 2022 presidential race.

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers - French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

Spending on the election trail is tightly regulated in France, with maximum campaign spends per candidate as well as a list of acceptable expenses that can be reimbursed.

In France the State pays at least some of the election campaign costs, with the budget calculated according to how many votes the candidate ends up getting. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know about French election campaign financing

On Friday, the government body (la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – or CNCCFP) released its findings for the 12 candidates who ran in the April 2022 presidential campaign. 

All of the candidates had their accounts approved, but 11 out of the 12 were refused reimbursement on certain items. Here are some of the items that did not get CNCCFP approval;

Rugby tickets 

Jean Lassalle – the wildcard ‘pro farmer’ candidate who received about three percent of votes cast in the first round of the 2022 election – bought “19 tickets to attend a rugby match” according to the CNCCFP’s findings. The organisation said it would not be reimbursing the tickets and questioned “the electoral nature of the event”. 

The total cost of the tickets was €465 (or €24.50 each).

Too many coffees

Socialist candidate, and current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo reportedly spent at least €1,600 on coffee for her team during the campaign.

According to the CNCCFP, however, the caffeine needed to keep a presidential campaign running did not qualify under the country’s strict campaign financing rules.

Too many stickers

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s was told that the 1.2 million stickers that were bought – to the tune of €28,875 – to advertise the campaign would not be reimbursed. Mélenchon justified the purchasing of the stickers – saying that in the vast majority of cases they were used to build up visibility for campaign events, but CNCCFP ruled that “such a large number” was not justified. 

Mélenchon was not the only one to get in trouble for his signage. Extreme-right candidate Éric Zemmour was accused of having put up over 10,000 posters outside official places reserved for signage. The same went for the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who decided to appeal the CNCCFP’s decision not to reimburse €300,000 spent on putting posters of her face with the phrase “M la France” on 12 campaign buses.

Poster pictures

Emmanuel Macron – who won re-election in 2022 – will not be reimbursed for the €30,000 spent on a professional photographer Soazig de la Moissonière, who works as his official photographer and took the picture for his campaign poster. 

The CNCCFP said that Macron’s team had “not sufficiently justified” the expenditure.

Expensive Airbnbs

Green party member Yannick Jadot reportedly spent €6,048 on Airbnbs in the city of Paris for some of his campaign employees – an expense that the CNCCFP said that public funds would not cover.

Translating posters

The campaign finance body also refused to reimburse the Mélenchon campaign’s decision to translate its programme into several foreign languages at a cost of €5,398.

The CNCCFP said that they did not consider the translations to be “an expense specifically intended to obtain votes” in a French election.

Best and worst in class

The extreme-right pundit Zemmour had the largest amount of money not reimbursed. Zemmour created a campaign video that used film clips and historic news footage without permission and also appeared on CNews without declaring his candidacy – because of these two offences, CNCCFP has reduced his reimbursement by €200,000. He has been hit with a separate bill of €70,000 after he was found guilty of copyright infringement over the campaign video. 

The star pupil was Nathalie Arthaud, high-school teacher and candidate for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who apparently had “completely clean accounts”. A CNCCFP spokesperson told Le Parisien that if all candidate accounts were like Arthauds’, then “we would be unemployed”.