Faced with a tougher-than-expected reelection campaign, French President Emmanuel Macron has finally gone the campaign route — and it isn’t all pleasant.
But he isn’t shying away from enraged voters, instead participating in vigorous, often heated conversations. Since qualifying for the April 24 presidential runoff with far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen on Sunday, Macron has been ready to get out in the field to explain his programs and persuade voters to give him a second term.
During a visit to the eastern city of Mulhouse on Tuesday, he was grilled with tough questions.
“How come you didn’t aid the poorest?”
“Why do hospitals have bed shortages and health-care worker shortages?”
“How can you suggest delaying retirement from 62 to 65 years when so many people are unemployed?”
The 44-year-old leader was adamant about explaining his plans in detail, but became irritated when individuals continued to challenge him.
Macron avoided most campaign events in the run-up to Sunday’s first-round presidential election, which had 12 candidates, instead spending his time at the Elysee Presidential Palace on diplomatic attempts to halt Russia’s war in Ukraine. Domesti
The candidate role has now taken over. According to surveys, Macron is the clear favorite, but Le Pen looks to have closed the distance from 2017, when he defeated her in the same presidential runoff.
Macron visited an economically disadvantaged region in northern France that is considered a bastion of Le Pen on Monday. He went to the eastern towns of Mulhouse and Strasbourg the next day, where far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third Sunday, received a majority of the first-round vote.
Macron actually sprinted toward the little gathering waiting for him as he arrived in Mulhouse. He encountered several sympathizers, as well as irate, disgruntled personnel from a local public hospital who came to confront him.
Some nurses informed him, “We’re fatigued.” “Let’s make our working circumstances better!”
A 61-year-old health-care worker stated he has been working for 30 years but only earns 1,885 euros ($2,051) per month.
“I’m not thinking about myself right now.” He explained his decision by saying, “I’m thinking of my children, my grandkids.”
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Macron emphasized reforms taken by his government, including a tiny pay raise for hospital personnel.
He inquired, “Have your wages been increased?”
The man said, “We don’t feel the impact of it.”
Another health-care professional inquired about hospitals “losing beds” due to the ongoing epidemic.
“I know, that is the obstacle we are experiencing,” Macron said, stressing that the problem is a shortage of educated medical personnel, a condition exacerbated in a region where many French choose higher-paying jobs in neighboring Germany and Switzerland.
“I made obligations two years ago… In addition, wages were raised. “You can’t claim 183 euros ($199) per month is little,” Macron emphasized.
Another major stumbling block for Macron was his proposed pension reforms. Macron wants to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65, arguing that it is necessary for France to continue to fund its pensions. Le Pen has stated that she will keep the retirement age at 62. In late 2019, large street protests erupted over the subject, forcing Macron to postpone his plans due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Macron stated, “We must work harder.” “It’s not true that if we don’t push back (retirement age), we’ll be able to maintain funding our social model.”
He kept stressing that the retirement reforms will be phased in over time until 2031, and he left the door open to easing the reform as he tries to woo people who backed other candidates in the first round.
Boos interrupted Macron’s address on Europe at a demonstration on the square close to Strasbourg’s 12th-century cathedral, which houses the European parliament, but failed to unsettle him. Instead, he replied to criticism in a spontaneous manner, calling for mutual respect between fans and opponents.
Le Pen’s supporters credit her excellent first-round performance to months of campaigning in France’s provinces. However, once Macron finally entered the battle, he attempted to distinguish between the candidates’ campaigns, condemning those “who never go to meet opponents.”
He stated, “I’m not going to meet only those who like me.”