French President Emmanuel Macron sought to wrap himself in the mantle of war hero Charles de Gaulle on Thursday after a spate of ministerial resignations dim an aura of invincibility that accompanied his first year in power.
Macron helicoptered into Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises in eastern France, where de Gaulle had his country estate, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the constitution the former general drew up, creating a powerful role for the president.
Macron has sought to paint himself as a leader in the mold of de Gaulle, a towering father-figure of modern-day France who made strong authority a totem of his presidency and had a deep sense of belief in his own destiny. In his official photograph, a copy of de Gaulle's war memoirs sit on Macron's desk.
Sixty years ago, de Gaulle felt a duty to transform France as it grappled with a bloody colonial war in Algeria and weak and unstable institutions. Macron too believes he must overhaul France to make its institutions more efficient, create growth and counter the rise of far-right populism.
"It was the spirit of 1958, it must be that of 2018, because today as then and today perhaps more than then, the people want to feel listened to by political elites constantly asked to prove themselves," Macron said in a speech on Thursday, as reported by Reuters.
Macron's presidency suffered a major blow this week as three ministers announced their resignations in two months. Macron is trying to rebound from his lowest approval ratings since taking office in May 2017. An IFOP-Fiducial opinion poll yesterday showed just 31 percent of respondents were happy with his performance as support eroded across all ages on both the political left and right. That is lower than his predecessor Francois Hollande at the same stage in the socialist's presidency. Hollande went on to become so unpopular he was the first president in France's Fifth Republic not to run for re-election.
For much of Macron's first year in power, the former investment banker appeared untouchable, self-assured by his falling popularity as he pushed through investor-friendly reforms with business-like efficiency. Recently, however, Macron has looked more vulnerable. Economic growth is slower than forecast, undermining his deficit-busting credentials. Unemployment is no longer coming down. The normally decisive Macron is wavering on an impending tax collection reform.