Emmanuel Macron. Picture: SUPPLIED
Emmanuel Macron. Picture: SUPPLIED

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron heads into the summer break faced with falling popularity ratings after tough debates in parliament over labour reform and a public ethics law, a standoff with the military and cuts to housing assistance.

A YouGov poll published on Thursday showed 36% of voters held a favourable view of the 39-year-old, a fall of 7 points on the previous month and echoing the downward trend seen in various other surveys.

Centrist Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected in May on a promise to usher in sweeping economic and social reforms to haul France out of its economic malaise.

The main concern of voters was the same as before the election — unemployment — the YouGov survey showed.

On the jobs reform front, Macron’s government scored a victory this week when it won the Senate’s backing to deregulate the labour market that will now go back to company bosses and trade unions before being written into law.

Parliament’s lower house is also expected next week to approve a new public ethics bill, overruling Senate objections to a proposal scrapping a constituency fund for lawmakers. The bill is designed to clean up French politics.

But a reduction in housing aid, controversy over the timing of promised tax breaks for tenants, and allegations of financial scandal against members of his government that led to some early ministerial resignations, have tainted Macron’s first months in the Elysee.

The resignation of his armed forces chief after a row between the two men over defence budget cuts was another early blow, and the standoff was seen by Macron’s critics as evidence of an overcontrolling nature.

With Macron and his prime minister both suffering declining popularity ratings in past weeks, the president issued a warning to his ministers at a cabinet meeting in July. "Don’t get caught up in the comfort of the documents written up for you by your civil servants.

"It might seem easy for you to be placed into their hands. But if you continue like this, in six months you will be nobodies," Macron said.

The Yougov poll showed a 14-point slide in backing for Macron among his party’s supporters, although a huge 81% still said they held a favourable opinion of the president.

Professing to be neither of the right nor left, Macron has performed a delicate balancing act to maintain harmony within his year-old LREM party and its allies, announcing tax reforms that socialist opponents say favour the rich and the temporary nationalisation of the STX shipyard to protect local jobs.

The ensuing spat with Italy, whose Fincantieri has been blocked from taking a controlling stake, has raised questions over Macron’s credentials as a leading driver of European integration.

"Emmanuel Macron is now a man who stands for the national interest first," wrote London-based think-tank Eurointelligence in a blog.

Reuters

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