Mes voeux … et ceux du président
Happy New Year to faithful readers of this blog. President Macron delivered his New Year’s address to the French a couple of hours ago, and it seems that he has decided to stand droit dans ses bottes, as Alain Juppé tried to do in 1995. He has thrown down a gauntlet to opponents of his pension reform plan and signaled to the government that he expects it to stand firm. There was no concession whatsoever, not even on the âge pivot, which many observers, including me, thought he did not regard as primary.
Of course, this may have been a tactical move. It does not rule out a concession at a later stage. The calculation may be that if anyone must beat a retreat, it should be the prime minister, not the president. But it may also mean that Macron, if he is to go down, is prepared to go down swinging.
A word on the staging: the president was literally droit dans ses bottes, or at any rate dans ses pompes. He stood directly in front of the camera, with a fountain in the Elysée garden spouting behind him. Throughout his presidency, he has varied the mise en scène of these formal addresses to the French. Tonight’s setting seemed designed to present a president unafraid of the looming confrontation despite the already long strike and fraying nerves of a public deprived for a month of most public transportation. It was far from his best speech, but he showed no sign of lacking determination. Mélenchon promptly, and with characteristic dramatic overstatement, labeled the speech a “declaration of war.” It wasn’t that, but it certainly wasn’t a proposal of peace either. The new year should be interesting.