Though it is President Trump’s political difficulties in Washington which are attracting world attention, another newly elected Western leader, President Macron of France, is experiencing problems of his own.
Within weeks of being elected to the Presidency Macron has had a furious public row with the head of the French military – who was forced to resign – is said to be unhappy with many of his ministers including his newly appointed Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, and is said to be dismayed by the chaotic state of his governing coalition in parliament.
Meanwhile his popularity has tumbled, according to one poll by as much 10 points, which is almost unprecedented so early in a Presidency.
There is now already some talk of another failed Presidency in France, following on from those of Sarkozy and Hollande.
It is early days in Macron’s Presidency and he has both time and opportunity to recover. Some of his moves – particularly in the diplomatic field, where he has been the only West European leader to forge a good relationship with US President Trump and where he has been the first Western leader to acknowledge publicly that President Assad of Syria is there to stay – have actually been deft.
If Macron is to turn things round he however needs to understand that his problems ultimately stem from the way he was elected. He did not really win the Presidency but as The Duran has repeatedly said he was leveraged into the Élysée as a result of a succession of backstairs manoeuvres of which he was the possibly unintended beneficiary. His mandate in an election marked by widespread cynicism and abstention is therefore brittle.
However since being elected President Macron has seemed oblivious to this. Instead he compares himself to President Charles De Gaulle, a political titan who came to the Presidency unexpectedly, late in life, against the wishes of the French political class and after decades of hard political struggle, and who was therefore as different from Macron as it is possible for a French President to be.
At the same time Macron is overemphasising the ceremonial trappings of his office – holding court at Versailles as if he was some sort of king – whilst his reluctance to expose himself to media scrutiny during the election – and to the resulting questions about his policies and his private life – is now carrying over into a similar aloofness towards the media since he won the Presidency.
Unsurprisingly one of the most common complaints being made about him is therefore that he is authoritarian.
Unfortunately in the political desert that is French politics today there is no obvious alternative to him. Marine Le Pen has been seriously damaging by her disappointing showing in the election whilst Jean-Luc Mélenchon is probably too left wing and at 66 perhaps too old to be a convincing opponent when the next Presidential election comes in five years time.
Unless Macron changes course France therefore looks likely to stagger on in its present state of stagnancy, in which it has been trapped since Chirac left the Presidency in 2007 and arguably from even before.