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Macron on the ropes

Riot police fending off fireworks in Nantes last night. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty

Emmanuel Macron is “teetering on the brink”, says Françoise Fressoz in Le Monde. By using an arcane bit of the French constitution to push up the pension age from 62 to 64, the president has provoked more than the usual “virulent opposition”. When the government confirmed it was bypassing parliament on the issue last Thursday, furious MPs belted out La Marseillaise in the chamber of the Assemblée Nationale. A few hours later, left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon gathered demonstrators at the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI was executed, to try to “revive the regicidal instincts of the crowd”.

Though Macron has avoided that particular fate, his popularity is as low as it was at the height of the gilets jaunes protests of 2018. Unions are “strongly mobilised”, effigies of the president have been burned, and the streets are susceptible to “outbursts of violence”. It may seem extraordinary that such a “seemingly minor issue” should be so explosive, but Macron’s willingness to use the constitution as a weapon has confirmed all the tropes that he is “top-down” and “authoritarian”. That has been a red rag to everyone from Mélenchon on the left – with his “dreams of a popular uprising” – to Marine Le Pen on the right. The effect has been “devastating”: representative democracy is weakened; resentment against the government is at historic highs. And Macron has only himself to blame.