On Tuesday, June 8, in the Drome department of southeastern France, 28-year-old ultra-conservative and medieval combat enthusiast Damian Tarel slapped President Emmanuel Macron when he shook his hand during a meeting with voters ahead of regional elections on June 20 and 27. The attacker and his friend, who filmed the provocation, face three years in prison and a fine of 45 thousand euros.
The incident in Drome is instructive for Ukraine, as it reflects public dissatisfaction with the president's activities. The results of the regional elections will reveal the political sentiment of voters before the presidential elections in France in April 2022, and will make it possible to draw conclusions about Macron's chances of being re-elected for a second term. France is taking part in the settlement of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in the Normandy format, and the position of this country will depend on who sits in the Elysee Palace.
Alarm call from Drome
It was no coincidence that Macron visited Drome, since in the regions the situation with the presidential party La République En Marche is not very good. The Drome Department is the battleground for Macronists and Republicans. In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, Marine Len Pen won in Drome, and Macron won in the second round with 62.62% of the vote. In the same year, in the parliamentary elections from the fourth electoral district of Drome, a member of the conservative Republicans Emmanuel Anthony was elected to the National Assembly. Representatives of the La République En Marche party won from three other constituencies. The General Council of Drome is headed by the Republican, and among the MPs there are representatives of the right and left parties.
According to the IPSOS poll, the majority of voters are ready to vote for the Republicans and their partners in the first round of voting in the regions of Grand Est, Haut-de-France, Ile-de-France, Normandy, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, which includes the Department of Drome. The ultra-right National Movement party is in second place in popularity in these regions. Marine Le Pen is a favorite in the Center-Loire Valley and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regions. The presidential party La République En Marche even had to agree on an electoral alliance with the Republicans in the South Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region to compete with the Le Pen party.
At the forefront of the election race in Aquitaine, New Aquitaine and Burgundy-Franche-Comte are the Socialist Party, other left-wing political forces and the National Movement, while Macron's party is in 3-4th place in terms of the number of supporters. In the Paye-de-la-Loire region, the positions of the Republicans and Ecological Europe parties are strong, and in Bretagne, the presidential party and the Republicans are equally popular.
The defeat of Macron's party in the regional elections and the victory of right-wing political forces are not excluded. The presidential campaign of 2022 may develop according to the same scenario, unless, of course, some will play in favor of strengthening the image of the current president. From 2017 to 2021, Macron's support rate dropped from 55% to 38%, according to a study by Politico.
What makes Macron so unpleasant?
The reaction of users of social networks to the incident in Drome was mixed: someone sympathized with the French president and condemned the attacker, while someone mocked him and wrote that Macron needed to be thanked for getting off with a slap in the face and not falling under the guillotine. The French have something to criticize their president for. Macron angered the French with lower incomes, doctors, the working class, residents of depressed cities, regardless of political orientation.
Upper-middle-income French and big business benefited from Macron's policies as he cut corporate tax from 33% to 25%. According to the French Observatory of Economic Conditions public organization, during Macron's rule, the subsistence minimum of 5% of the poorest population fell to 240 euros, and for 5% of the richest French people it rose to 2,905 euros. It's no wonder why Macron has been nicknamed "the president of the rich."
Macron's plans to teach the French to use fuel and electricity more economically by raising gasoline prices and tariffs on housing and utilities to protect the climate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere were met with hostility. The protests of the "yellow vests" were a test for Macron in 2018.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the flaw in the approach to save on the social sphere was revealed. France's health care system was not well-suited to this challenge. French hospitals do not have enough medical staff, the number of beds. In 2020, protests of doctors were held in the country, who complained of physical exhaustion and demanded that the government expand the staff of medical workers. The coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 100 thousand people in France.
Another blow to Macron's image came from 12 terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists since the beginning of 2020, which have claimed the lives of 8 people. The most brutal and resonant was the murder of school teacher Samuel Pati in the suburbs of Paris by 18-year-old Chechen Abdullah Anzorov. The extremist cut off the teacher's head for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Macron tried to use the incident to strengthen his authority among the conservative French and opponents of migration: he ordered to broadcast cartoons on the buildings of state institutions in Paris, intensified the persecution of radicals in order to eradicate "Islamic separatism." He appointed the conservative politician Gerald Darmanin to the post of Minister of the Interior, for which he was expelled from the Republican party. By December 2020, 66 radical illegal immigrants had been deported from France, 76 mosques, allegedly associated with Islamic extremists, were identified. However, these events did not add points to the incumbent president of France. He turned against himself Muslims in France and beyond, while the Conservatives remained loyal to their leaders.
The Drome incident symbolizes what can happen when the president is far from his people. The slap in the face to Macron was somewhat reminiscent of the incident that happened to US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad in December 2008. Then journalist Muntazar al-Zeidi threw his boots at him and called him a dog in protest against the Iraqi war. Political decisions dictated by international organizations or creditors, contractual obligations do not always correspond to the needs of the time, common sense, and fit into the expectations of society. This is a lesson for the authorities of any country, including Ukraine.
Strengthening the conservatives in the French political arena is in Russia's interests, but creates risks for Ukraine.
Marine Le Pen is going to run for the third time in the presidential elections. The National Movement no longer aims to make France’s exit from the EU. In light of the growing threat from Islamic extremism, Le Pen proposes to tighten migration policy, strengthen border controls, change the rules for granting French citizenship, and limit the issuance of visas. Le Pen in the chair of the President of France is the least preferred option for Ukraine. In 2017, she justified the annexation of Crimea, arguing that the annexation of the peninsula to Russia was allegedly legal, based on the will of local residents. For such rhetoric, the politician was almost banned from entering Ukraine. The leader of the National Movement opposes anti-Russian sanctions and believes that France and Russia need to cooperate to "protect the world" from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.
The chairman of the regional council of Haute-de-France, Xavier Bertrand, is going to run for president. He served as Minister of Health on the team of President Nicolas Sarkozy and was a member of the Republicans party he founded. In October 2015, Bertrand supported Sarkozy's trip to Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, where he expressed regret at the deterioration of Russian-French relations. Sarkozy is opposed to the policy of anti-Russian sanctions and Ukraine's integration into the EU and NATO. Bertrand considers the cold snap in relations between Russia and the West as a cold war, which it is time to end. In July 2014, he said France should not obey the United States unquestioningly after President Barack Obama expressed concerns about a contract to supply Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia and training Russian sailors to operate these ships after the annexation of Crimea.
There is a version that the slap in the face to Macron from a resident of Drome was staged in the interests of the president himself, in order to expose the French conservatives in a bad light, to create a stereotype that they are supported by radical elements. Not surprisingly, the attack on Macron was criticized by his fierce rival Marine Le Pen.