Macron’s New Policies Challenge Public’s Perceptions
A new anti-terror-law signed Monday by French president Emmanuel Macron puzzled citizens’ perception of his public image. In the election, President Macron was a stark contrast to the nationalist approaches of Marine Le Pen, yet his recent decisions may indicate a shift in his administration’s policy.
Over the past weeks, various newspapers referred to President Macron as the “president of the rich”. This image strongly conflicts with former appearances where he promised “work for everyone” , as well as boosts in investments, and an overall increase in economic growth. It was statements like this that caused many to consider him a liberal, and rather leftist outsider entering the political stage in France.
However, a new policy to reduce the “Solidarity Tax on Wealth” in France by 70 percent, eliminating non-real-estate assets from the tax, seems to conflict with these statements.
Experts predict that the cut will lead to 1 percent of France’s families capturing 44 percent of the tax breaks. Still, the actual effects of the solidarity tax are unclear. Empirical evidence, as corresponding policies were already abolished by other countries, shows that this doesn't need to have any effects on inequality.
However, the tax’s significant symbolic value in France should not be underestimated, as it is based on a longstanding emotional tradition. Thomas Piketty even described this new policy as a “heavy moral, economic and historical sin” in the French magazine LeMonde.
President Macron himself dismissed critics on this issue. Instead, he stated that the positive effects on all French citizens would be observable in approximately two years. Until then, the French should “adapt a more positive attitude towards success” as he does not believe “in this French jealousy.”
Another issue that attracted public outcry was an anti-terror-law. During the election, President Macron promised to abolish the country’s state of emergency that was declared by former President Hollande in 2015. This promise was realized on Tuesday, followed by an implementation of a new law that permanently institutionalized the most rigid elements of emergency powers.
President Macron said the law would “explicitly target terrorists to the exclusion of other Frenchmen” by granting government forces powers to shut down mosques, raid, detain and question terrorism suspects.
Some describe this policy as a recall of the “Code of the Indiginate”, a series of laws that divided natives of French colonies and French citizens. While this might be arguably over-exaggerated, human rights activists already consider challenging the law before the European Court of Human Rights to mobilize the international community.
President Macron’s anti-terror law will be reevaluated in two years, but the immediate effects are already visible. While the president stresses his role as “a president of all French”, so far, both policies could foster further segregation of French society: the poor feeling abolished by tax cuts for the wealthy, while French Muslims fearing exclusion from the national community.