New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 August 2017
Islamophobic Mockery in Australia
By Saudi Gazette
Europe’s Extremism Problem
By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
Is Regime Change The Best Way To
Resolve Qatar Crisis?
By Mustafa Al Zarooni
Risks of Iran Nuclear Deal Collapse
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
US Ties With Iranian Opposition
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Are Nazis As American As Apple Pie?
By James Q. Whitman
Violence and Shifting Rules Of
By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
France’s ‘President Jupiter’ Fires
Orders From The Sky
By Zaid M. Belbagi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
As political stunts go the appearance of an
Australian far-right politician in the Canberra parliament wearing a burqa is
hard to beat.
When Pauline Hanson, leader of the
Islamophobic One Nation party walked in completely cover in black there were
gasps from assembled legislators and one was heard to cry, “Oh, what on
The speaker of the House of Representatives
might have been tempted to order the racist politician from the chamber and
will surely be seeking to find out how security had permitted Hanson to enter
in this attire. But it was probably a good thing that this woman was allowed to
stay and hear the reaction of virtually every other MP to her outrageous
mockery of Islam. Indeed she had probably been hoping that she would be expelled,
which would have allowed her to claim she had been victimized.
Instead after she had delivered a stumbling
speech endeavoring to justify her conduct and calling for the burqa to be
banned, she was exposed to withering criticism from all sides of the house.
The condemnation was led by the
government’s Attorney General George Brandis. The Australian parliament is
known for the scathing comments and rudeness that members dish out to each
other. Yet however much anger and contempt he may have felt for Hanson’s wicked
piece of theatre, Brandis was notably moderate in his response, but that very
moderation gave his words extra power.
He said that the racist politician’s
actions had risked the more than half a million Muslims in Australia’s
population. To ridicule this community, to mock its religious garments was an
appalling conduct and he suggested she reflect on what she had done. He
concluded by telling her that the government of Malcolm Turnbull in which he
served had no intention of banning the Burqa.
Hanson, who had sat awkwardly throughout
Brandis’ dignified skewering of her insulting stunt and objectionable racist
policies, then had to endure a rare demonstration of parliamentary unity when
all opposition politicians joined government members in standing and applauding
the attorney-general’s words.
There is an argument that the election of
bigots like Hanson, Gert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France
has the benefit of exposing the contorted, ugly face of intolerance for all the
world to see. Their poisonous propaganda when exposed to public view in
national legislatures can be seen for the disfiguring threat it poses to all
decent and civilized values. Had Hanson been thrown out of the chamber in
Canberra she would have carped on about her right of free speech. Perhaps she
was so hesitant in delivering her bile-filled speech against the wearing of the
burqa because she had not expected she would be given the opportunity to make
But there is one still very recent lesson
from a Europe that prided itself on its sophistication and political maturity,
which cannot be ignored. Hitler’s Nazi party came to power through the ballot
box and in and out of parliament it made no secret of its hatred for Jews.
Democracies wring their hands about the right of free speech and insist that
even the most deplorable views deserve to be heard. But who would now deny that
if there had been an undemocratic way to stop Hitler’s Nazis from seizing power
and replacing democracy with dictatorship, it should have been taken?
17 August 2017
In a panel discussion of MiSK Tweeps held
on the sidelines of the Riyadh summit on May 22, Foreign Minister Adel
Al-Jubeir addressed the French allegations of Saudi support for Islamic
extremism in France, saying: “We have long been accused of supporting and
financing extremist mosques and Islamic centers in France. The Saudi response
has always been to ask for proof in order to shut those centers down.
Nevertheless, we end up in a barren discussion with the French side having no
such proof. The problem is that such baseless fallacies and assumptions have
become a reality in public opinion.”
He went on to say that a “French parliament
report on foreign financing of mosques in France, published in July 2015,
proves that the Gulf financing of mosques and Islamic centers makes up only 1
percent and that most of the foreign financing comes from three main countries:
Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey as many Muslim minorities in France come from
those three countries.”
According to the report, the lion’s share
of the financing of French mosques comes from individual donations inside
France and not from foreign governments. The report estimates that 300 out of
2,500 imams come from the said above-mentioned three countries, and not from
French Islamic centres. The Saudi embassy in France says that the Kingdom
financed eight mosques in France at a total cost of €3.7 million, and paid
salaries to 14 imams, i.e., it financed eight out of 2,500 mosques and Islamic
Al-Jubeir went on to diagnose the problem
of the European Community that embraces hardliners and extremists and allows
them to spread extremist ideology under the pretext of freedom of opinion. He
says that “in Saudi Arabia, we do not tolerate extremists at all; whoever
violates the law is held accountable and isolated or deported if he happens to
be a non-Saudi.
We advise Europeans that if extremists or
terrorists happen to be (French or German) citizens, charge them and isolate
them in order to prevent them from spreading extremist ideology, and if they
happen to be non-citizens, deport them.”
Freedom of Speech
Al-Jubair says Europeans do not do that.
They say there is freedom of speech, but at the same time, they call them
extremists. “Europeans have to choose between freedom of speech or extremism or
else stop complaining.”
A report prepared by security experts at
Europol said: “The number of victims of extremist attacks across Europe in 2015
rose compared to the previous year. Yet, 2016 seems to have been even
bloodier”. Hence, I think the accelerated pace of terrorist attacks in Europe
since early 2015 and the increasing number of victims throughout the continent
have worn people down. They have had enough of being tolerant with extremists
under the guise of freedom of opinion as expressed by UK Prime Minister Theresa
On June 6, Theresa May declared that
Britain is prepared to reduce human rights in order to facilitate the
deportation or restriction of the movement of suspected militants with
insufficient evidence to prosecute them. In her election campaign, she said:
“If our laws prevent us from (dealing with suspected extremists), we will
modify them in order to do that.”
Finally, I think that it is time for Europe
to work on redrafting human rights discourse based on human rights standards
and freedom of expression, taking into account the problem of extremism in a
comprehensive manner. Continuing to allow extremists to have access to channels
that have influence on people under the pretext of freedom of speech will only
increase terrorism in Europe; it will not reduce it.
Is Regime Change The Best Way To Resolve
August 17, 2017
The visit could signal a new start in
resolving the stalemate
The decision by Saudi Arabia to reopen its
borders with Qatar for the Hajj pilgrimage shows the Kingdom's large heart and
should not be viewed as a compromise or capitulation on the part of Riyadh. It
proves Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries have only
goodwill for the people of Qatar with whom they share strong emotional and
cultural bonds. It shows the respect they have for their Qatari brethren who
have been suffering from the policies of their government that refuses to take
action against terror networks in its midst.
What is significant about this development
is that Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah
bin Jassem Al Thani, who is from a branch of the ruling family in Qatar that is
opposed to the policy of its government. The meeting was held at the Peace
Palace in Jeddah, and Sheikh Abdullah's active role in mediation efforts to
resolve the crisis should be commended. It takes courage of conviction and is
premised on principles on which the Gulf Cooperation Council was founded that
we are friends, brothers and partners in development of the Gulf.
The visit could signal a new start in
resolving the stalemate. It is also a sign that all is not well within the
ruling family in Doha. Internal rifts within the ruling elite in Qatar are for
all to see, and Sheikh Abdullah is held in high regard by GCC countries. Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin praised Sheikh Abdullah for the visit and
stressed the depth and importance of historical relations between the Saudi and
Qatari people during the meeting.
Sheikh Abdullah enjoys wide acceptance
within the Al Thani family and is a popular figure among ordinary Qataris. His
side of the family values its ties to the region and there is immense respect
for them in the GCC. He is the ninth son of the late ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Ali
bin Abdullah Al Thani. The royal is also a brother of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al
Thani, who was ousted by his paternal cousin Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani,
the grandfather of the present Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on February 22,
1972. Sheikh Abdullah's side of the family is known for their administrative
skills and for maintaining strong ties with neighbouring countries during the
last century. They were responsible for guiding the young nation since its
inception in 1971.
Sadly, traditional strong ties of the early
years took a nosedive when Sheikh Hamad, the current Amir's father dislodged
his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, in 1995. Qatar then embarked on
an aggressive and independent policy that it took it away from GCC ideals. It
supported extremist movements across the globe and played host to terror
leaders who have threatened the security of the region. Doha has also nurtured
an alternative relationship with Iran at the cost of its core partners in the
Pressure is mounting on Qatar since June 5
when Arab countries began a boycott and closed their airspace to flights from
Doha. Business and investments have been hit in the country, and if the crisis
drags on, it could lead to regime change in Doha where Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad
Al Thani may be forced to step down as the ruler of the country. All through
the tense political standoff, the opposing branch of the Al Thani family led by
Sheikh Abdullah supported Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries
against the nasty media campaign led by Al Jazeera and Qatar's ruling elite.
The UAE welcomed the development. Foreign
Affairs Anwar Gargash said Saudi Arabia decision has shown how
"big-hearted it is". "Qatar's politicisation of the pilgrimage
must end following the generous initiative of King Salman. There are matters
that are nobler than politics," he wrote on his Twitter account.
Several Qataris on social media welcomed
the decision, which could go a long way in easing tensions between the two
sides. The GCC cannot be held to ransom by the ruling elite in Qatar. If they
don't come to their senses, the bloc will have to look for alternatives. Sheikh
has the qualifications and lineage. More than anything else, he's a peacemaker
who can give Qatar a fresh start. - firstname.lastname@example.org
We can sense fear in statements made by
Iranian officials and most recently President Hassan Rouhani who warned against
the consequences of the big scheme’s collapse – the reconciliation agreement
with the West based on the nuclear deal signed during the term of former US
President Barack Obama.
The Congress shocked the Iranian government
when it reinstated a number of economic sanctions on Iran, and US President
Donald Trump insisted on his stance that the nuclear agreement serves Iran more
than the US, threatening to abolish it.
Countries of the European Union (EU) are
keen to preserve the agreement, which they believe it ushered in a new phase
with the Iranian regime. Since signing it, they rushed to seal huge trade deals
with Tehran, a move that was previously not possible because the US government
would have put any European company that dealt with Iran on the blacklist.
Arab states, especially Gulf countries,
were the most provoked by this agreement. They were neither against sealing a
deal that eradicates the Iranian nuclear danger nor against dealing
commercially with Iran but objected over its high cost – extending Iran’s
powers via fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and threatening other Arab states.
In case Iran considered that imposing
sanctions abolishes the nuclear deal then it will resume uranium enrichment,
renewing tension. Iran offers the West two options: its nuclear project that
will threaten the West and Israel in the future, or being allowed to have
hegemony over the region.
Tehran used the second option as a weapon
to blackmail the West: Obama’s administration struck with it a deal that only
aims at halting its nuclear program, allowing it to enjoy its powers in several
areas, including those that the US considers as interest zones such as the
Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Yet, Iran’s commitment to ceasing the
nuclear project is a significant progress that makes Iran worthy of the removal
of economic and commercial sanctions. But Obama’s administration went so far in
its concessions and allowed Tehran to wage wars, for the first time and in a
direct manner, even in states not lying on its border such as Syria and Yemen.
The nuclear agreement is partially
responsible for the region’s chaos. There are more than 50,000 extremists
fighting in Syria – directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
and brought in from various countries at the time when the international
community was endeavouring to get rid of extremist groups such as ISIS.
Because the nuclear agreement was
negotiated discreetly between the Obama and Rouhani teams, the region hasn’t
been aware of its details until recently – the Obama administration left behind
it a dangerous mine. Iran has become more aggressive after signing the
agreement, this is evident.
Disrupting the Project
The deal might succeed in disrupting the
nuclear project for another decade but it has fuelled a more dangerous war in
the Middle East and posed an unprecedented level of threat to regimes since the
revolution in Iran in 1979. It also reinforced extremists in Tehran.
The new Iranian threats against the US
economic sanctions must be taken seriously because they trigger Iran’s way of
imposing what it wants via violence and chaos. But the US relapse in Syria
represents a huge tactical mistake because Syria is where Iran can be besieged
and obliged to cooperate regionally and internationally.
There is a contradiction here because
Washington is escalating with Iran on the nuclear level and allowing it to
operate freely on the Syrian front.
US Ties with Iranian Opposition
The Iranian opposition is gaining momentum
due to a growing consensus in the US Congress over the necessity for regime
change in Iran. A senior delegation of US senators went to Albania’s capital
Tirana this week to meet Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of
Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political coalition calling for regime change in
Iran and considered the main threat to the ruling mullahs.
They also met members of the People’s
Mojahedin of Iran (MEK), the main member of this varied coalition of groups and
individuals. The high-profile visit comes at a time when Washington has slapped
major new sanctions on Iran, including its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),
for its ballistic missile drive, its support for terrorism and its human rights
violations. Given that the IRGC controls over 40 percent of Iran’s economy,
these new sanctions are a heavy blow to Tehran’s ambitions.
Ties between Iran’s opposition and US
officials are strengthening, and the number of high-level officials supporting
the opposition is rising. They recognize the opposition as a legitimate
representative of many Iranians who seek democracy in their country. Rajavi
expressed her gratitude for the US Senate’s tireless efforts to protect thousands
of MEK members in Iraq and relocate them to Albania.
Previously, in a Senate briefing, several
US officials strongly condemned Iran’s destructive role in Iraq. Sen. Roy Blunt
joined an initiative demanding the urgent transfer of MEK members stationed in
a former US military base known as Camp Liberty near Baghdad.
In April, Sen. John McCain, a longtime
supporter of the Iranian opposition, visited the MEK in Albania and met with
Rajavi. MEK members were able to leave Iraq after a four-and-a-half-year ordeal
in Camp Liberty following their forced transfer from their 26-year home in Camp
Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad.
From 2009, following the transfer of
security from the US military to the Iraqi government, the MEK came under eight
major ground and rocket attacks by Iran-backed proxies against Ashraf and
Liberty. This was in parallel with a seven-year siege. After losing more than
160 of their colleagues to the attacks and blockade, MEK members were finally
able to leave Iraq for European countries, mainly Albania.
This latest visit sends a strong signal to
Tehran that the NCRI is gaining momentum. This time last year, Tehran was
hell-bent on destroying the MEK. Now the tide has turned, with the opposition
on the offensive.
Tehran fears the opposition’s soft power
more than the hard power of foreign governments. That is why Iranian leaders
and media outlets react forcefully and anxiously to such visits and opposition
activities. The opposition can be a very powerful tool to pressure Tehran
without the need for direct military confrontation.
Is the US threatened by Nazism? The short
answer is no, notwithstanding the frightening events in Charlottesville,
Virginia, this past weekend.
In Charlottesville, the home of the
University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, white nationalists,
separatists, neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other like-minded
groups rallied behind Swastika banners and marched in a Nazi-style torchlight
procession. By the end of the next day, there had also been thuggish violence.
One white supremacist went so far as to drive a car into a crowd of
counter-protestors, killing one and injuring 19 others.
The groups responsible for the violence in
Charlottesville reveled in US President Donald Trump’s election last November.
And Trump has often hesitated to disavow them; during the election campaign,
when former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke publicly backed him, Trump was
scandalously slow to reject Duke and his followers. Trump also repeatedly
incited violence during the campaign, while evincing a bottomless affection for
authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After the events in Charlottesville, Trump
initially offered a bland statement that condemned hate “on many sides,”
thereby drawing a moral equivalence between the racists and those who gathered
to oppose them. Two days later, under intensifying pressure, Trump issued a
more forceful statement, in which he explicitly condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis,
and other white supremacists, only to revert the following day to blaming “both
sides” for the violence.
All of this is abhorrent. But any sober
observer can see that the US is still a long way from the nightmarish
atmosphere of Germany in 1933. American democratic institutions are holding up,
just as they did in the crisis years of the 1930s. Opposition parties have not
been banned, and the courts have not lost their independent authority.
Moreover, Trump is not the supreme leader
of a political party with a paramilitary arm. There are no facilities such as
Dachau, Auschwitz, or Treblinka under construction. Even Trump’s planned border
wall with Mexico remains stuck in the planning stage, with no funding from the
US Congress. And Congress is not about to pass an Enabling Act conferring
dictatorial powers on the president, as the Reichstag did for Hitler in March
1933. Last but not least, the American press is more tenacious and energized
than it has been in years.
Trump’s yearning for authoritarian rule is
clear for all to see. But he will not achieve it. There will be no Nazi
dictatorship in America.
But whether America is threatened by such a
dictatorship is not the right question. American democratic institutions might
be holding up, but history has taught us that they are not immune to the
machinations of racially virulent political programs. In fact, the US produced
some of the laws that would later serve as a foundation for the Nazi movement
America, with its vibrant democratic
institutions, was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world in the early
20th century. An obvious example is the Jim Crow South, where white
legislatures passed laws imposing racial segregation and reversing many of the
gains of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. But that is hardly the only
example. Those on the far right in Europe also admired America’s
early-20th-century immigration policies, which were designed to exclude
“undesirable” races. In his manifesto Mein Kampf, Hitler singled out America as
“the one state” that was progressing toward the creation of a healthy
Indeed, during this period, 30 US states
had anti-miscegenation laws intended to safeguard racial purity. America’s democratic
institutions did not stand in the way of such policies in the early 20th
century. On the contrary, anti-miscegenation laws were the product of America’s
democratic system, which gave full voice to many Americans’ racism. And US
courts upheld these legal innovations, using flexible common-law precedents to
decide who would acquire the privileged status of “white.”
The Nazis paid close attention. As they
concocted their own racial statutes – the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 – they pored
over American race law as a model.
So today, instead of asking whether
American institutions will survive the Trump presidency, we must ask how
American institutions can be put in the service of wrongful ends. After all,
while America’s early-20th-century race laws are gone, it still has the same
overheated democratic order and common-law flexibility that it had back then.
These institutions might no longer produce Jim Crow laws; but the American
criminal-justice system, for example, remains a poster child for institutionalized
Americans should be ashamed that their
country’s institutions laid the groundwork for Nazi race law. But they should
not be worrying about the threat of renascent Nazism, despite Trump’s clear
ambivalence in condemning white supremacists. Rather, Americans should worry
about the potential of their institutions to facilitate evils that are, as
loath as we are to admit it, as American as apple pie.
In June 1996 after sunset, a container
loaded with explosives made its way through Khobar streets. The target was a
residential complex that houses American military personnel. In addition to the
container, there were men in a Caprice car to provide logistical support. Two
men got out of the car after they noticed that a family sat in a park near the
A friend told me that his relatives were
playing with their children there, and the two men’s task was to evacuate
families. After that, an explosion ripped through the compound killing 19 and
injuring around 500 others. All of them were Americans.
This was the infamous operation of
Hezbollah al-Hejaz. On another hand, Osama bin Laden’s documents warned his
followers in al-Qaeda in Iraq of targeting mosques, Shiite congregation halls
and shrines. All this clarifies an important matter pertaining to the
development of armed groups’ “rules of engagement.”
Hezbollah al-Hejaz no longer abides by its
rule of evacuating those close to the target and al-Qaeda no longer abides by
its theoretical foundations not to target markets and shrines. Their fighting
methods developed and became fiercer.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi rejected the teachings
of his leader Osama. His practices were the basis of ISIS’ bloodiness as the
group was mainly produced by al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The foundations and
regulations of terrorist organizations disintegrate as they age and they lose
their hierarchy. Their aims also evaporate and their ideology weakens.
The terrorism of Shiite organizations is no
longer based on structure but they’re being produced by criminal networks which
harmonize with political and religious slogans and shallow Khomeini principles.
This can be clearly seen in the current confrontations in al-Awamiyah.
The weapons which armed groups possess
there were stored over stages that began after the Gulf war. Then they began to
store weapons, which they smuggled from neighbouring countries to serve
criminal purposes within a network of interests that feeds off crime in all its
forms. Current Shiite terrorist groups are a mixture of criminal and religious
ideological experts and they are not a product of the Shiite Sahwa tide.
In other words, they are not a religious
and ideological extension, like the case with Hezbollah and al-Qaeda
organization. Shiite terrorist groups are closer to ISIS. This is in addition
to the security and political cover, which these organizations provide for each
other in confrontation arenas and during fighting.
This terrorist phenomenon was a founding
pillar of extremist groups that emerged within the Shiite theory and through
the hierarchy of symbols and followers of the Shiite Sahwa. It’s on this basis
that Hezbollah al-Hejaz was established. Like the Sunni al-Qaeda organization,
Hezbollah Al-Hejaz tried to legitimize extremist ideas and terrorist
Most terrorist cells members have a
criminal history as they were part of drug networks or arms trafficking and,
like ISIS, they used religious slogans. They began to operate without having
any project in mind as their purpose is to fight for personal obsessions after
being mobilized by religious rhetoric.
Process of Recruitment
Those familiar with the principles of
al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas can see that recruitment is different. The
terrorist goes through several stages starting at a young age. There are
programs and workshops that are supervised by the leader who assigns tasks and
In both modern cases – the Sunni ISIS and
the Shiite ISIS – central management is absent when carrying out operations.
The attacks are chaotic in every direction and there isn’t even the minimum of
rules of engagement. Researchers cannot find a set of principles, researches,
books and records like the case was with al-Qaeda and the Shiite Hezbollah
groups in Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
This indicates that the terrorist cell in
its current form is dominated by the practical and not the theoretical.
Criminal groups thus attracted more young men. This is what we can conclude
from the results of war on the destructive terrorists in Al-Awamiyah.
French presidents at the height of their
powers are often labelled as “L’hyperprésident,” but Emmanuel Macron has gone a
step further, being referred to by aides and commentators alike as “Jupiter.”
Having overthrown France’s two main political parties, the once approachable
campaign candidate now fires orders from the Elysée Palace in a fashion not
dissimilar to the thunderbolts of the mythological Roman deity of the sky.
The president’s deliberately icy and firm
new demeanour is understood to be a strategy of his closest advisers. The
“Jupiterian” concept of power seems to have been developed toward the end of
the campaign to illustrate Macron’s vision for a strong presidency. Following
Hollande’s lowest approval ratings for any French head of state, Macron is tied
to the idea of reinstating presidential power and prestige through a selective
aloofness that puts him above political intrigue and gossip.
The theory essentially dictates that the
president delegates the daily management of government to the Cabinet, thereby
leaving the job of ruling to him. The plan seems to be working, with
commentators focusing on Macron’s more serious manner and his curt addresses to
the public in a fashion that has been likened to that other dispenser of
mystical power, President Charles de Gaulle.
Irrespective of the distance that the
presidential staff have sought to create between the Elysée and the realities
of daily politicking, Macron will have to get involved in the affairs of
government. Throughout the history of
the Fifth Republic, presidents have tended to work through their prime
ministers — however following the promise to shake up France and implement
large-scale reforms, the electorate expect energetic leadership from their
Cracks have begun to show, with Macron
being faced with the very real reality of having alienated groups on both the
left and right of the spectrum. The country’s head of the armed forces, Gen.
Pierre de Villiers, recently stepped down following a spat with Macron, who
viewed his Facebook posts on defense spending unfavorably. The dismissal of the
general, some 30 years the president’s senior, was viewed as authoritarian and
impulsive by the French press. Voters on the left viewed their supposedly
anti-establishment president with disdain as he rolled out the red carpet for
Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, while insisting upon salary freezes
for government employees and cuts to welfare.
In one month the president’s approval
rating dropped 10 points in one poll, and eight in another. Not since the opening months of President
Jacques Chirac’s first presidency have the polls fallen so fast. As he begins
to overhaul France’s fossilized labor law and trade unions in the autumn, the
president can expect a tough time in the ratings. In a country where state
spending accounts for almost 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) the
young man supposedly sent by providence must be careful not to alienate
constituencies whose income and employment are closely attached to the state
The media have realized the presidential
changes all to well. The candidate who had once loved a good chat has become
markedly less media friendly. A limited group of aides control access to the
president and set-piece addresses to the press have replaced the online chats
of the previous months. Visiting a high school near Limoges, the president
reprimanded reporters chasing soundbites, saying that “when I travel on a topic
of my choosing, I speak of the topic of my choosing, I won’t answer any newsy
The president, described as increasingly
imperious, has realized that connecting with the public en masse will be more
challenging then expected. A product of France’s elite schools, Macron was hitherto
unelected and has shown himself to be more comfortable within establishment
institutions than visiting the country’s poorer regions. At a recent visit to
an auto-parts factory, the president was booed by workers — a far cry from the
candidate who had promised to restore hope to France’s stressed millions.
Macron’s En Marche coupled with centrist
allies occupy 350 seats in the National Assembly, giving them a substantial
majority. How they will perform in the overhaul of France’s labor code will be
interesting and shed light as to whether Macron’s movement has the staying
power to become an entrenched political force. Opposition figures have viewed
the president’s drop in the polls with glee whilst mocking the inexperience of
the private-sector novices who now serve in Parliament as Macron’s agents of
change. As to whether their political naiveté emboldens them to break with the
past or indeed hampers their ability to govern will be a key question in the
For the millennials that voted for Macron
in droves, economic change is a necessity. En Marche made huge promises to the
electorate, who will not be won over with small measures. Seasoned entrepreneur
Hicham El Maaroufi Elidrissi captured this sentiment perfectly, saying that
“the country can’t be run on good intentions, the government needs to step up
and begin implementing the change and major policy shifts that made Macron’s