Macron 'humiliated' over King Charles visit as France braces for fresh violence
Emmanuel Macron has been blamed for the “humiliation” of postponing King Charles III’s state visit during violent pension protests.
Even some of the French president’s close allies fret that he is cutting an increasingly lonely figure in the ivory tower that is the Elysée Palace.
One opposition leader accused him of deliberately seeking to foment an ambience of “civil war” to sway public opinion in his favour.
Summing up the impact of King Charles III’s trip being pulled at the last minute, Le Figaro's front page read: "Charles III: at the heart of the crisis, an avowal of powerlessness". Its editorial branded the postponement a "humiliation", saying France's "Republican monarch" caved in to a bunch of "half-woke half-Bolivarian revolutionaries” who “dream of a remake of 1789”.
By cancelling the trip, the president has for the first time acknowledged that the country is dancing on a volcano,” it went on.
“The Republican monarch is more alone than ever.”
Le Monde cited an Elysée source as saying the president had little choice given the almost certain disruption to King Charles’ trip to Paris, Versailles and Bordeaux.
”A state visit between our two countries cannot be mezzo voce, especially after the Boris Johnson period. It must be pleasant and festive for the King of England and Head of the Commonwealth,” said the source.
The trip was supposed to help further warm ties between France and the UK in the wake of Brexit and following this month’s successful bilateral summit between Rishi Sunak and Mr Macron in which they agreed to a new deal cracking down on Channel people smuggling.
Instead, it ended in “diplomatic disaster”, opined Le Figaro. Worst of all, Paris - reduced to an open-air rubbish pit due to a collectors’ strike - would now have to play second fiddle to Berlin, where the King will be welcomed with open arms. The move was a “terrible disappointment for a ramshackle nation wondering what state it will be in to host the Olympics next year”, it wrote.
Amid fears of spiralling violence, even staunch allies are starting to wonder whether Mr Macron is increasingly out of touch, exchanging with only a very small inner circle and deciding everything alone.
“Once cannot remain blind, one cannot remain deaf to this protest. We must offer responses,” said Guillaume Gouffier Valente, an MP from Mr Macron’s Renaissance group.
“The software is broken. It needs to be changed,” said Ludovic Mendes, another Renaissance MP. “People need to talk, to be heard, to be taken into consideration. We need to put the human touch back into proceedings,” he told Le Monde.
“All anger has been trained on him personally and he has no go-betweens around him. Never has France been ruled by so few men and women,” said Bruno Retailleau, head of the opposition Right-wing Republicans in the Senate.
One potential way out of the current impasse, say analysts, would be to extend an olive branch to Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, France’s largest. On Friday, Mr Berger urged Mr Macron to put the reform "on hold for six months" to allow tensions to cool down.
But the president slapped him down, saying that while he was "at unions' disposal" to discuss issues relating to labour, the pension reform must now run its democratic course in the hands of the Constitutional Council, France's highest constitutional court, which must rule within a month whether it is viable.
Members of the Macron camp reportedly told Le Monde that they were “stupefied” at the French president’s dismissive tone regarding Mr Berger, who he accused during a TV interview on Wednesday of offering“no compromise proposals”.
Rather than seeking to calm nerves, analysts said that the French president appeared bent on spoiling the protest movement by styling himself as the champion of law and order against rising anarchy and "agitators".