It’s been a long time since anyone in France thought of Emmanuel Macron as a centrist politician bridging the left-right partisan divide, as he has often portrayed himself. But after the events of the past few weeks, the French president is fending off charges of being an authoritarian wolf in liberal sheep’s clothing.
His latest misstep involves the now-infamous security bill that his government was forced to partially withdraw this week due to popular protests against some of its sweeping measures. The entire episode has put Macron’s attempts to co-opt the far right in the spotlight, even as it highlights the amount of distrust he has generated across the political spectrum.
Macron famously campaigned for the presidency in 2017 as “neither left nor right.” After taking office, however, he pursued structural reforms to France’s economy and labor market as the core project of his presidency, which he entrusted to the renegade members of the center-right Republicans party he successfully poached for his Cabinet. That won him the reputation for being “the president of the rich,” and made it clear that, as former French President Francois Mitterrand once put it, the center is neither left nor left.