In an apparent effort to brush aside the label ‘president of the rich’, President Macron decided to reaffirm that he is a ‘man of the people’.
“I’m not an heir,” the president said on Thursday.
“If I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, or the son of a politician, you could have a go at me. But that’s not the case.”
He made the remarks in the town of Bourg-de-Peage during the third round of ‘national debates’, a series of town hall-like events the authorities hope will help to foster compromise with the Yellow Vest protesters and other critics of the government. Some, however, find it hard to buy Macron’s ‘I’m one of you’ message.
“He obviously doesn’t come from lower-income brackets like some of us do,” a woman told RT on the streets of Paris.
“He can’t understand the everyday problems of French people living on minimum wage,” another Parisian said.
“But it’s not really important what he says now. His future actions will define his presidency.”
Not exactly a man of humble upbringing, Macron comes from a well-off family. Prior to first joining the government as minister of economy and finance, he was an investment banker with Rothschild & Cie Banque.
“He studied in elite schools, as aristocrats do. He was ‘made’ there. The French elite is created this way,” a man told RT.
Even if the president is right about not being born into the elite, his milieu most certainly was, another said.
“Throughout his career Macron has networked with people who were born with silver spoons in their mouths. I think he is more a president for the rich. He is a ‘puppet’ of the big banks.”
In the eyes of his critics, Macron well deserves the ‘president of the rich’ tag after scrapping the wealth tax, claiming it will prevent capital flight and boost the French economy.
On Saturday, France enters the 11th straight week of Yellow Vest protests, which have raged across the country. Beginning as a grassroots movement against planned fuel tax hikes, the Yellow Vests grew and started to roll out wider demands, like the resignation of Macron and his government.
The protests have often descended into fierce street battles with police in Paris and other cities. Many were injured on both sides, with more than a thousand people detained with connection to the Yellow Vest activities. At least 10 people have died since the rallies began in November – mostly in incidents stemming from roadblocks.