Macron fans the flames of illiberalism

Top: Protesters during a rally of "yellow vests" against rising costs of living, in Nantes, eastern France, on Saturday. Above: French President Emmanuel Macron's approval rating has dropped to 26 per cent.
Protesters during a rally of "yellow vests" against rising costs of living, in Nantes, eastern France, on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Last year, the election of Mr Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, as France's president was almost unanimously seen in the business press as a sign that the tide of "populism" could be reversed. The Economist hailed him as "an able reformer and a credible figurehead of European liberalism". As late as June this year, Edward Luce, author of The Retreat Of Western Liberalism, wrote in the Financial Times that "only in France, where Emmanuel Macron is firmly in charge, does populism seem contained".

It is true that this silver-tongued graduate of Sciences Po and Ecole Nationale d'Administration - the nurseries of the French ruling elite - had prevented a far-right demagogue from occupying the Elysee Palace.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'Macron fans the flames of illiberalism'. Subscribe