Emmanuel Macron on brink as French turn against President over pandemic

Emmanuel Macron portrait smashed by protestors in Poitiers

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In the latest survey conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on the political effects of the coronavirus pandemic on EU citizens, the French President has been found accused of imposing restrictions on citizens’ freedoms for undisclosed reasons.

Across the bloc, 43 percent of under 30-year-olds questioned the use of restrictions, and 20 percent said lockdowns are an “excuse to control the public.”

But France and Poland also had large proportions of citizens who were suspicious of their government’s policies.

Of the French people surveyed by the EU think tank, 20 percent said they were suspicious of the reasons behind lockdown restrictions imposed by President Macron.

And 24 percent went even further in admitting they blame the French government for using COVID-19 as cover to increase its control over people’s lives.

The report read: “Bulgaria, Poland, and France are also the countries with the largest number of Accusers – comprising around one-quarter of those surveyed.

“When it comes to assessing the main motivation behind restrictions, the data show that people who have been affected by illness or bereavement, and those who feel they have not been affected at all, trust that lockdowns were mainly meant to help limit the spread of the virus.”

The findings also warned another pandemic could lead to an even less united EU, with divisions emerging not only within member states but also between them.

It added: “In France, the pandemic has led to striking changes of political philosophy in the main governing and opposition parties. This is the ‘nonbinary democracy’.

“The crisis has driven the liberal supporters of Emmanuel Macron’s centrist political platform to support highly interventionist state action, with 89 percent of those who expressed an opinion believing that the restrictions were either right or not strict enough.

“Meanwhile, among the current supporters of Marine Le Pen, whose party has often sought a more authoritarian state, almost one-third (33 percent) of those who expressed their opinion think that the restrictions were too strict and hence want their party to pose as a tribune of freedom against the repressive power of the pandemic state.

“While 84 percent of Macron supporters believe that the main motivation behind the restrictions is to limit the spread of the virus, only 41 percent of Le Pen supporters agree.

“Instead, 37 percent of Le Pen supporters think that the main motive for the restrictions is to control the public; only one in 20 supporters of Macron share that opinion.

“While the early stages of the crisis saw many citizens rally behind their national governments and EU member states move towards more cooperation, the next stage of the crisis could lead to more political divisions both within states and between them.”

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A fourth wave of COVID-19 infections is receding in France but the government is taking a cautious stance as schools prepare to reopen after the summer vacation.

Vaccinations have picked up in recent months, and people now need a health pass, or proof of vaccination, to gain access to restaurants, bars, museums and sports venues.

Last week, France’s top health advisory body (HAS) recommended a booster shot for those aged 65 and over and for those with existing medical conditions that put them at risk.

“Those eligible for a booster shot have been able to make appointments since Monday this week. We see this as a genuine health requirement to extend protection, as some studies demonstrate,” the official said.

“We are talking of around 18 million people who are currently eligible for a third dose. We hope to see some 12.4 million get this booster shot by year-end and the rest at the beginning of next year.”

Government data shows nearly 72 percent of the total French population had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of August 30.

A little more than 65 percent had received two doses or one dose after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.

There is no consensus among scientists and agencies on whether a third dose is necessary.

Last week, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, said data on third shots was inconclusive.

He had previously said they should be halted and that authorities should focus on delivering doses to poorer nations.

However, WHO Europe head Hans Kluge appeared to be more positive than the UN health body’s past assessments on Monday, saying booster shots were a way to keep the most vulnerable safe.

The ECFR results were based on a public opinion poll in 12 EU countries that the European Council on Foreign Relations commissioned from Datapraxis and YouGov (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden), AnalitiQs (the Netherlands), Alpha (Bulgaria), and Szondaphone (Hungary). The survey was conducted in late May and early June 2021, with an overall sample of 16,267 respondents.

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