On Tuesday Jun 8th, French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face. The incident happened while the President was greeting a crowd in southeast France. It has caused a security scare, drawing widespread condemnation ahead of this month’s regional elections.
The slap as seen on video footage
There is video footage of the incident circulating on social media. Macron can be seen approaching a barrier to meet and shake hands with voters. A man in a green T-shirt takes hold of the President’s elbow, and says a few words. The man then proceeds to slaps the French President.
Local officials said that President’s Macron’s bodyguards quickly took control soon after. The public saw two people being detained after the slapping incident.
The prefecture for the Drome region said the French President entered his car after visiting a high school at around 1.15pm. Calls from onlookers made Macron exit his car to meet them. It was then that the incident took place.
The local prosecutor’s office said the two detainees, both 28-year-old men living in the region, are being questioned. Their motives remain unknown at this stage however.
Outrage over the incident came from across all factions of the political spectrum. The assault took place in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region. It overshadowed the French President’s plan of holding a listening tour to “take the country’s pulse”.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told the French Parliament “Politics can never be violence, verbal aggression, much less physical aggression.” Castex then said the slapping incident targets the country’s democracy.
Not long after, Macron resumed his trip. The video footage clearly shows the man making contact with the president’s face. However, Macron’s aide describes the incident as an “attempted slap”.
Someone was heard on the video of the incident shouting “Down with Macronism!”
The French President is widely expected to seek a second term in next year’s presidential elections. Current polls show him with a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen, as he remains a highly divisive figure.
Over the next two months, his latest nationwide tour will include around a dozen stops. Macron who is a former investment banker, is anxious to go out and meet voters in person. This is after more than a year of the government’s crisis management over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aloof and arrogant
The reformer President received verbal abused in previous meet-and-greet initiatives however.
Scenes of furious citizens booing and heckling him came out 2018. During that time, Macron was making a tour to mark the centenary of the end of World War I.
Anti-government “yellow vest” protests were gathering momentum at the same time as the tour. The protesters were denouncing the government’s policies and the President personally. They said Macron’s leadership style was aloof and arrogant.
A group of protesters verbally abused Macron and his wife Brigitte back in July last year. This happened on Bastille Day while the couple were taking an impromptu walk through the Tuileries gardens in central Paris.
Voters asked Macron to comment on recent remarks from far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, prior to the slapping incident. Over the weekend, Melenchon suggested there could be manipulation at next year’s election.
Macron said “Democratic life needs calm and respect, from everyone, politicians as well as citizens.”
A moment of national unity
On Tuesday, Macron’s fiercest critics and political rivals came to his defence in a rare moment of national unity.
Le Pen calls the slap “unacceptable and profoundly reprehensible in a democracy”. Melenchon stood “in solidarity with the president”.
Debate is likely to spur from the slap that may possibly lead to a pernicious political climate. The first round of regional elections is just two weeks away, and presidential elections will be held in April 2022.
French ruling party MP Patrick Vignal said “it’s tense everywhere”. “This campaign stinks and it’s because of the personalities. No one is going to come out a winner.”
9th June 2021 23:00
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