Immigration Could Be Macron’s Achilles’ Heel

The president barely talks about an issue that preoccupies two-thirds of French voters.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen Emmanuel Macron
Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is greeted by French president Emmanuel Macron outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, June 9 (Elysée)

Patrick Chamorel makes another fine point in his essay about Emmanuel Macron in The American Interest.

He points out that the French president has barely talked about crime, immigration, integration and terrorism:

His emphasis on the necessary liberalization of the economy disproportionately reflects the preoccupations of the most urban, educated and prosperous sections of the population.

In smaller cities and the countryside, people worry about other things.

Achilles’ heel

A survey published in June found that:

  • 65 percent of French voters feel there are too many foreigners in the country;
  • 61 percent think they do not try hard enough to integrate into French society; and
  • 74 percent believe Muslims are inclined to impose their way of life on others.

Chamorel wonders if Macron’s silence on these issues could be his Achilles’ heel.

The president is due to unveil a reform to improve the efficacy of counterterrorism policy, but he has been reluctant to link terrorism to the growing presence of radical Islam, especially in the downtrodden banlieues that ring France’s major cities.

Long and short term

After the election, I argued here that Macron’s challenge would be to convince the less prosperous half of France — which did not vote for him — that liberal reform will benefit them too. That remains the case.

Objectively speaking, liberalizing the economy is the priority. In the long term, that should help balance out the wealth differences between the banlieues and postindustrial towns in the north on the one hand and the big cities and arcadian rural communities of western France on the other.

But in the short term — and in order to maintain popular support for his program — Macron cannot overlook the anxieties of “the other France”.