PARIS • Has French President Emmanuel Macron turned a corner?
Two months ago, his approval ratings were tumbling. Yellow Vest protests were shaking France with the backing of the public. And polls showed Mr Macron's party would finish behind Ms Marine Le Pen's anti-EU movement in May's European elections.
Now, his ratings have picked up, the Yellow Vest protests have fizzled, and Mr Macron has overtaken Ms Le Pen in election polls.
"What counts is mobilisation, and in this period, it's Macron's electorate that's been remobilised," said Mr Bernard Sananes, president of polling company Elabe. "After doubting the leadership of their chief, in the past few weeks, they seem to have rediscovered their confidence."
Mr Macron has been re-energised by a return to the rough and tumble of retail politics.
To push back against the Yellow Vests, he called a series of so-called national debates that have involved marathon sessions streamed live on French television, with the President fielding voters' questions on everything from the wealth tax to speed limits.
Not only have the debates given him free air time, but he has recaptured the feisty tone that helped win him the 2017 election.
An Elabe poll released on Wednesday showed most French (76 per cent) still think he is arrogant. But they also think he is dynamic (70 per cent) and even courageous (57 per cent).
Meanwhile, turnout and support for the Yellow Vests are declining. Police said 69,000 people took part in the 11th weekend of protests last Saturday, compared with hundreds of thousands who were turning out at the end of last year.
Internationally, he is also being more assertive. When Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi visited Paris last October, Mr Macron dodged an invitation to comment on human rights.
In Cairo last weekend, he told Mr Sisi there is no excuse for his crackdown on dissent and then reprimanded Japan for the jail conditions of former Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn in Tokyo.
A monthly poll by Odoxa research institute on Jan 24 said Mr Macron's popularity rose 3 percentage points to 30 per cent in January.
An Ifop poll released the same day said his approval rating jumped 4 percentage points in a month to 27 per cent in January.