Covid, attacks and reforms at a standstill: “funny year” 2020 for Emmanuel Macron

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Emmanuel Macron had promised a 2020 year of reforms in France, but the Covid-19 epidemic has upset his agenda, while a series of attacks pushed him to assert himself on sovereign issues within 18 months of the presidential election.

• Read also: France: Macron positive for COVID-19, European personalities in isolation

The French president wanted to approach 2020 on the move, determined in particular to “complete” the reform of the pension system, contested a year ago in the street. He finished this year in solitary confinement, after testing positive for Covid.

Because in this “funny year”, as he acknowledged in October, his reformist ambitions were stopped dead by the pandemic which killed nearly 60,000 people in France.

The lockdowns in the spring and fall plagued the economy, forcing the president to swap his liberal clothes to adopt an interventionist and spending policy.

“He couldn’t help it. We are in a country that expects a lot from the State, it has been reinforced with the crisis. All the themes on relocation, sovereignty are in the process of asserting themselves in public opinion, ”said the political analyst associated with the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, Chloé Morin.


Propelled as a “war” leader in the face of the epidemic, Emmanuel Macron made many solemn speeches, but could not prevent certain hiccups, on the shortage of masks or the maintenance of the first round of the municipal election during the first wave .

But despite unpopular decisions like closing many businesses, it has managed to limit the breakage in terms of its popularity, stabilizing around 40% positive opinions.

“On the management of the Covid, people generally say to themselves that the government is not good, but that in other countries it is not better. It is neither a support nor a rejection ”, explains to AFP Chloé Morin.

“Its cement is on the theme of security,” she continues.

A subject dear to the right-wing electorate that Emmanuel Macron has spared in 2020.

In the middle of the summer, between two waves of Covid, he changed government and reaffirmed a course to the right with in particular the appointment of Gérald Darmanin, figure of this camp, to the Interior.

Translation in deeds: a resumption of sovereign issues in the fall, in particular after a wave of Islamist attacks.

Two bills symbolize this turn of the screw on security.

The first, on religious separatism which makes it possible to dissolve controversial associations in their links with Islamism, led him to be accused by part of the left of stigmatizing Muslims.

The second, on global security, which plans to punish the “malicious” use of images by law enforcement agencies, has been criticized in the Anglo-Saxon world and at the UN.

“I cannot let it be said that we are reducing freedoms in France,” defended the Head of State, faced with demonstrations.

European success

“Domestically, there is a shift to the right, but he has remained liberal and pro-European,” notes Sophie Pornschlegel, analyst for the European Policy Center think tank in Brussels.

And it is also on the European scene that Emmanuel Macron can see a ray of sunshine in this gloomy year.

He is, with Angela Merkel, one of the main architects of the huge recovery plan of 750 billion euros against the Covid, succeeding in convincing in particular the “frugal” countries.

“There was something that got unlocked. It’s a real European moment and it’s a victory to be credited with, ”points out Tara Varma, director of the Paris office of the European Council for International Relations (ECFR).

Outside the borders of the EU, the results are more mixed: his interventionism in Lebanon, where he moved in the wake of the explosion of the port of Beirut

in August did not create the expected political shock and entered into open conflict with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The final sprint of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term will in any case start, less than 18 months before the presidential election. Will he represent himself? If no one really doubts it, he officially lets the mystery hang out.

“Maybe I will have to do tough things in the last year because the circumstances will require it, and which will make it impossible for me to be a candidate,” he said in early December.

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