Emmanuel Macron narrowly missed being hit by a bag of tomatoes during a surprise visit to a working-class neighborhood north of Paris, as he promised a new style of ‘listening to people’ after his re-election to the presidency.
In his first public appearance since Sunday’s vote, Macron strolled through a food market in the town of Cergy, northwest of Paris, shaking hands and posing for selfies. Most people were friendly, some shouted congratulations and others asked for help finding jobs, dealing with health issues or making ends meet.
But at one point there were brief boos, and a bag of tomatoes was thrown behind Macron’s back but missed. A bodyguard opened an umbrella to shield the president, who quickly dodged the projectile and continued to greet people and shake hands.
The Élysée Palace said the trip was a way for Macron “to listen to people’s concerns, expectations and needs”. He told young people in the neighborhood that he wanted to get into the field “from the start”. A young woman replied, “Don’t just come here for the pictures. Another spectator said: “It’s good that he comes out of the Élysée.
Macron won a second term at the weekend, beating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by 58.5% to 41.5%, but during the election campaign he was accused of being haughty and distant and of not understanding people’s concerns about the cost of living. , housing, employment and poverty. He had struggled to shed the label of “president of the rich”.
Emmanuel Macron declared in Cergy: “I want to send, from the start of my mandate, a message of respect and consideration to these neighborhoods among the poorest in the country”.
He acknowledged that deprived high-rise neighborhoods around Paris had some of the highest abstention rates in the presidential vote. Macron said “life was tough” there and some people felt angry or cut off from politics, and that not enough progress had been made in recent years to improve their lives.
He said there were issues of discrimination and there was a need for training programs, more doctors and better health care in these areas, as well as job creation. “We’ve brought down unemployment here, but it’s still above the national average because of discrimination and lack of training,” he said after meeting young local entrepreneurs.
Macron, the first French leader to be re-elected for a second term in 20 years, is now focused on the June legislative elections. He will need a centrist majority in the 577-seat house to push through his manifesto plans, including overhauling the benefits system and raising the retirement age. Pollsters believe he has a good chance of winning a majority.
Cergy is a left-wing region where the leader of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon came out on top in the first round of the presidential election. Mélenchon is trying to forge alliances with other left-wing parties to challenge Macron’s centrists in the legislative elections.
Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise, which has 17 seats in the lower house of parliament, wants to expand by hundreds more to win a majority on the left. The Socialist Party and the Greens (EELV) began discussions on Wednesday on possible parliamentary alliances with Mélenchon to increase the number of seats on the left.
Obstacles remain. Socialists are the traditional rivals of La France Insoumise, and some older socialists warn against “abandoning” party principles. The Greens are in favor of an alliance, but some green figures have said they will not compromise on their pro-European and anti-nuclear stance.