RTL Today – Combative strategy: In view of a new mandate, Macron walks the tightrope of vaccinations

Emmanuel Macron’s hardline stance against the unvaccinated has drawn praise from his supporters, but his combative strategy against Covid could backfire in a French presidential election that is far from a foregone conclusion.

The former investment banker is betting his tough stance on jabs – combined with plans to start lifting Covid restrictions in February – will secure broad support when he seeks a second five-year term in April.

Macron’s blunt comments earlier this month that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated marked a new level in his impatience with those unwilling to follow his vaccination campaign.

But despite high approval ratings for his handling of the crisis, including a new requirement for full vaccinations to enter most public places, there are signs his divisive comments could backfire.

“It’s an advantage for Macron, he can play on the success of his vaccination campaign,” said Emile Leclerc, research director at polling firm Odoxa, noting that France’s overall vaccination rate is higher than 80%.

“His forceful language was effective.”

But an Odoxa poll released on Tuesday saw Macron’s approval rating drop six points to just 39%, the lowest in nine months – a clear response to his outburst against the unvaccinated.

“For some, there is still a very strong perception, even if not shared by everyone, of a somewhat arrogant president,” Leclerc told AFP.

The pugnacious phrase was the latest example of a “transgressive style” that punctuated his presidency, Giuliano da Empoli, a political scientist who teaches at Sciences Po Paris.

“It is clear that he is not going to give up an element that constitutes a large part of his success,” he wrote in the French daily Le Monde.

Still, if the health crisis abates, Macron may find it harder to sustain support as issues like inflation and weakening purchasing power, or security and immigration, come back to the fore. plan.

“This crisis is like a pressure cooker. As long as it’s closed tight, it’s fine, but all of a sudden, if you open it a bit, it can explode,” Leclerc said.

Support within his centre-right base remains steady and most pundits expect Macron to easily make it to the second ballot.

But if his second-round rival is conservative Valérie Pécresse instead of far-right Marine Le Pen, Macron’s success in getting 80% of the country vaccinated might not get him across the line.

“If it’s Pécresse, he’s going to have a much harder time attracting a wider electorate, because he’ll have to be much more courteous and consensual,” said Jean Viard, a seasoned sociologist and former city councilor in Marseille.

– Times of crisis –

Pecresse, a former budget minister whose emergence as Macron’s main threat has taken pundits by surprise, slammed Macron’s “contemptuous” governance as a cornerstone of his campaign, vowing to “fix and unite the country” to his square.

That promise of fresh air could resonate among voters anxious for a return to normalcy after two years of Covid, including centre-left moderates appalled by the disintegration of the Socialist Party.

In a race where high abstention rates are again expected to inject volatility, an Ipsos poll on Saturday found voters on the left appear much less likely to vote for Macron – dubbed at first “president of the rich” – during the election. a second round.

Only 24% of supporters of instigator Jean-Luc Melenchon, who currently scores highest on the left, said they would support Macron this time around, while only two-thirds of Socialist or Green voters said that they would.

Viard also noted that “the elderly vote the most for Macron, but they could very well stay at home for fear of catching Covid”.

Macron has said he “wants” another term but has yet to declare his candidacy, and media reports suggest he will postpone it for as long as possible considering a first-round victory is locked in.

But as Leclerc told Odoxa: “A new phase of the campaign is opening – its popularity is declining, and a lot can still happen in the next two months.”

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