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Europe

Eye on France: Hollande tells Macron how to be a good president

media A man for all seasons: former president François Hollande. AFP/Angelos Tzortzinis

A left-wing former president talking about the current one, who is a centrist, in a right-wing newspaper. How’s that for political balance? François Hollande is the left-winger, Emmanuel Macron the centrist, and Le Figaro is the paper.

François Hollande says he’s sorry he didn’t run for a second term in 2017, assuring the nation that, far from having abandoned the political arena, he remains ready to serve, should the need arise.

So, we can’t say we weren’t warned!

François is disappointed by Emmanuel. The former president says the man who replaced him in the top job lacks the human touch.

Hollande believes that a successful French president needs “compassion, authority and humanity,” and that the man who used to be his economy minister has, in recent months, failed at the human level, insisting on too much distance between himself and the ordinary Frenchperson.

Yellow Vests and Red Bonnets

François may have a few doubts about Macron’s authority too, comparing the Yellow Vest protest movement which has bedeviled Macron in recent months to the Red Bonnet activists who took to the roads in 2013 to dramatise their objections to government plans to tax heavy goods vehicles.

Hollande put an end to that particular problem by abolishing the proposed tax, at a cost in material damage and lost revenue estimated at one billion euros.

“It is sometimes necessary,” he says now, “to react rapidly to prevent public exasperation from turning into irrepressible anger.”

The former president seems to have forgotten that the Red Bonnets surfaced in October 2013, that they destroyed camera gantries intended to collect vehicle details, fought the police, burned down tax offices, disrupted traffic and wrecked roadside speed radars. And they kept on doing it.

Having first suspended the hated tax, then promised to change it to meet the demands of those living in the distant western region of Brittany, Hollande’s government finally caved in in October 2014 and abandoned the measures entirely. One year, almost to the day, after the first violent reaction against the propositions. If that’s a “rapid” reaction, Emmanuel Macron still has several months to catch up with his gilets jaunes.

This is a continental, not a local, election

François Hollande must have been reading yesterday’s press review because he repeats, almost word-for-word, our wise observation that Emmanuel Macron is taking a risk by assuming such a high-profile position on the European parliamentary elections. The danger, of course, being that voters will turn the continental poll into a vote against Macron.

Hollande believes in leaving no turn unstoned, especially when the target is his successor.

He would have us believe that everything positive in the Macron presidency is really the fruit of policies laboriously put in place under the Hollande regime. He may even be right. This sort of thing is virtually impossible to tie down precisely.

Earlier this week the last president was expressing his shock at the absence of bodies in this election. There have been no crowds, no rallies, no mass events. He seems to forget that we’ve had five months of Yellow Vests. That’s enough crowds for anyone.

And that European elections have always been a bit low-key.

In fact, Hollande’s far-right arch rival, Marine Le Pen, has been seen with plenty of crowds . . . in Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Estonia and Denmark. So, when the ex-president laments the lack of a European element in these elections, he is forgetting about the efforts of the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-globalisation fringe, who are currently leading the charge, promising to get their voters out to save the Old Continent from the slavering hoardes on Europe’s porous borders, while the mainstream parties witter-on about apathy and the collapse of democracy.

Voting in what Emmanuel Macron calls the most important European election in EU history starts on Thursday.

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