- Title: Macron treads fine line in showing he's the boss
- Date: 21st July 2017
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - MAY 17, 2017) (REUTERS) MACRON WALKING DOWN STAIRCASE OF ELYSEE PALACE
- Embargoed: 4th August 2017 11:09
- Keywords: Macron presidency image media access leadership style authoritarian
- Location: PARIS, VERSAILLES, NICE & LORIENT, FRANCE / INTERNET
- City: PARIS, VERSAILLES, NICE & LORIENT, FRANCE / INTERNET
- Country: France
- Topics: Lawmaking,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0096QNUAMF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: In Emmanuel Macron's traditional presidential portrait destined to adorn town halls across France, a pair of iPhones and a copy of national hero Charles de Gaulle's memoirs lie on his desk.
The photograph is meant to portray a young, modern leader who is also the heir of the general who led resistance to Nazi Germany in World War Two and founded the Fifth Republic in 1958.
Cultivating this image from day one of his presidency, Macron rode up the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on May 14 in a military jeep instead of the traditional limousine.
He later tweeted a picture of himself being lowered on a winch into a nuclear submarine, and this week forced his military chief of staff to quit for criticising budget cuts.
Macron used the resignation of army chief General Pierre de Villiers, who disagreed with planned budget cuts, to show he will brook no dissent from those around him and the depth of his resolve to enforce public spending discipline.
But his action has alarmed military chiefs and highlighted a risk that his strategy could backfire by making him look authoritarian, over-controlling and oversensitive to criticism.
"The disadvantage of this type of governing, this style, is that you no longer really talk to civil society. You give orders. You are no longer within a collaborative and participative democracy. Neither are you within the logic of social networks. You are not in a dialogue, you are in a narrative that is imposed from above - through Facebook, through Twitter, or whatever - but it is imposed from above. It doesn't really take into account the masses and the people," political communications consultant Philippe Moreau Chevrolet said.
Macron, a centrist, has deliberately chosen a style that sets him apart from predecessors who, according to his staff, he believes had deeply flawed presidencies - Socialist Francois Hollande and conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande portrayed himself as the "normal president" during his 2012-2017 term but many voters thought his approachability made him look weak.
Voters' memories of the "hyper-president" style adopted by Sarkozy, who preceded Hollande, and widespread dislike of his impulsive and sometimes brash personality scuppered his chances of re-election.
Macron, 39, has reduced interaction with the media, scrapping the off-the- record chats which Hollande liked and cancelling the television interview the president traditionally gives on Bastille Day, France's national day.
Reuters TV reached out to Macron's media relations team for a comment, but they refused to speak.
Macron has also limited news conferences with media. Instead, he tweets and broadcasts videos on Facebook Live that have been filmed by his own media team.
"As he doesn't speak to the media, he risks having troubles outside of the media, that is to say in the conspiration-theorists' sphere, in other areas, in social networks - that is to say, the French people disconnect from the media and political sphere," Chevrolet said.
Though he made his name as Hollande's economy minister by speaking out of turn and outside his brief, he has muzzled his own ministers. They rarely appear on television and do not respond to reporters waiting in the Elysee palace courtyard after weekly cabinet meetings, rushing into their chauffeured cars without a word.
Macron has even proofread some ministers' interviews for the press, including one by his veteran foreign minister, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
The public has welcomed his performances on the world stage - from a public rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump over climate policy to his decision to host him for Bastille Day and hold a lavish reception for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But critics see a danger in what they regard as the over-centralisation of power in the president's hands and weak checks and balances in a country where the executive holds sway over parliament and the press is sometimes seen as deferential.
A BVA poll published this week showed Macron's popularity rating was down 5 points on a month earlier to 54 percent.
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