Macron’s outspoken wish to ‘piss off’ the unvaccinated targets centrist voters

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French President Emmanuel Macron surprised friends and foes on Tuesday when he said part of his Covid strategy was to “piss off” the unvaccinated with increasing restrictions to convince them to get vaccinated. The confession sparked predictable outrage from political opponents, but some analysts say the statement was a calculated ploy to bolster his image as a champion of the silent centrist majority against political extremes.

As the world fights against the Omicron wave and nations, including France, race to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible, Macron has expressed his strategy in vulgar terms: “I really want to piss off the no. vaccinated – and that’s what we’re going to do, until the end, ”he told the Parisian.

Let us underline the indignation of Macron’s political opponents. “A president shouldn’t say that,” said Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (National Rally, formerly Front National) and presidential candidate. Macron’s words show him “unsuitable for the office,” she added. “Terrible” was the verdict of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far left France Unbowed (La France Insoumise), in a tweet.

“Political theater”In reaction to Macron’s comments, Parliament suspended debate for the second night in a row on plans to introduce stricter restrictions on France’s health pass. French residents currently need a QR code justifying their vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter cultural and leisure venues or travel by long-distance train. The Macron bill would make full vaccination (three injections) the only way to qualify for a pass from January 15.

But suspending debate on the bill is only a “political theater”, given the immense parliamentary majority enjoyed by Macron’s centrist Republic on the march (La République en Marche) party, said Andrew Smith, professor. of French Politics at the University of Chichester. The suspension “will probably delay it for a day or two, no more,” he said.

Some observers say Macron’s blasphemies were a bit of the theater as well, less than four months away from the April presidential vote.

Polls show that Macron’s policies aimed at making life harder for the unvaccinated are popular: two-thirds of the French population support the transformation of the health pass into a vaccine pass, according to an Odaxa poll at the end of December. A similar majority has consistently supported the health pass, which reduced anti-vaccination sentiment substantial to push France’s vaccination rate to 77%, one of the highest in the Western world ahead of the United States, the United Kingdom. United and Germany.

The long string of protests against the health pass in the summer of 2020 only garnered support from a quarter of the population, after conspiracy rhetoric overshadowed more dominant opposition to the measure based on arguments from civil liberty.

Therefore, Macron’s statement on “the annoyance” of the unvaccinated “is addressed to the overwhelming majority of the French population who have been fully vaccinated – not to the people who resist the idea of ​​being vaccinated, who often vote for political extremes, ”Smith said. .

“He understands that people who voluntarily opposed vaccination are frowned upon by people who have received their vaccine, got their health card and just want to see the pandemic end. “

Smith went on to say that the president was likely aiming his comments at those who were already likely to support him, not trying to win over converts.

“What Macron said was addressed a lot to people who want to support him in the presidential election,” he said. they will cash their vote with Macron; this transfer does not really occur.

Holding on to the right, the traditional conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse of the Republicans is by far the most formidable threat to Macron’s re-election. policy, which has evolved into rights since taking office in 2017.

>> Conservative Pécresse seeks to establish herself as the “only threat” for Macron

Pécresse’s main attack on Macron is that he is a “pale imitation” of a center-right leader – who has pledged bold policies and failed to deliver – when she is the genuine article .

This highlights Macron’s change of course since his lengthy interview with TF1 at the Élysée last month, in which he acknowledged that some haughty remarks at the start of his presidency were “unacceptable” and that “you can get things done. without upsetting people ”.

Macron’s latest statement “appears to come from a candidate, not a president,” Smith said.

“He campaigned last time as a Disruptor, someone new who was going to do things differently. It’s hard to be that kind of character – to be new – when you’re sitting in the chair. So what Macron was doing was shining a light on how he still has a transformative impulse, promising a return to normal in the language of disruption. It was a media statement, even more than a political statement.

Pécresse was among those who suggested that Macron’s vulgar choice of word was inappropriate for an occupant of the Élysée, telling CNews that “it is not for the President of the Republic to choose the right ones and the bad French ”, adding that France needs a government which“ unites people and calms things ”.

But unlike Le Pen, Zemmour and Mélenchon, Pécresse broadly agrees with Macron’s Covid policies, including the vaccine pass. This is not the question she can win her constituents on by offering new, positive leadership, Smith said.

“Pécresse’s biggest job right now is to come across as very different from Macron, and if her different proposition is to say that she’s a little more polite than him, that puts her in an awkward position. This type of criticism is not the most effective; it doesn’t really mean saying “Macron shouldn’t have said that”. On the contrary, it makes the other candidate less effective. “

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