French president’s ambition crippled by domestic woes

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/3 22:28:39

The May Day demonstrations in Paris were hijacked by about 1,200 black-clad protesters with hoods and masks described as anti-globalization and anti-capitalists on Tuesday. They smashed shop windows and torched cars in an attempt to vent their anger and discontent at French President Emmanuel Macron's public sector labor reforms. The unrest came on the 50th anniversary of the protests in May 1968 that nearly overthrew the government at the time. The riots reflected the troublesome domestic situation of France and its diminishing strength.

France is plagued by unemployment, lukewarm economic growth and excessive welfare. Nearly one year into his presidency, 40-year-old Macron has carried out rare, sweeping reforms of public services including the heavily-indebted state rail operator and higher education.

But his efforts didn't go smoothly. Rail staff have begun three months of nationwide strikes and were joined by tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other workers in March. Similar protests by rail workers in late 1995 ultimately prompted then-president Jacques Chirac to dissolve his government. Macron refused to back down and the protesters this time lack the support they enjoyed in 1995 and 1968. Nonetheless pushing forward with reforms remains a very hard nut to crack. A weak country means less influence in the world.

After defeating right-wingers and extremists in the 2017 presidential election, Macron was widely expected to advance France and boost Europe's economic development and in particular, European integration. Unfortunately that didn't go as anticipated. A survey by Ifop-Fiducial released on April 14 showed that about 58 percent of voters were unhappy with Macron's presidency, according to AFP.

Still the French president doesn't forget to weigh in on international issues. Paris joined Washington and London in launching attacks on alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria last month. During his three-day visit to Australia, Macron echoed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in reminding China to abide by the rules in the Indo-Pacific region. Apparently under Macron, France, a middle power, aspires to behave like a major. Macron has to realize that France doesn't have as much weight as it had before and meddling in others' affairs doesn't mean as much. A country will have larger influence on other countries only when it grows strong and powerful enough. Too much involvement in others' business will do no good to France's long-term development. Why doesn't Macron focus more on his country's own internal issues?

Posted in: OBSERVER

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