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France’s Macron aims to chart path out of crisis in televised address to nation

The French president has seen his ratings slide amid criticism of his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The French president has seen his ratings slide amid criticism of his response to the coronavirus pandemic. © REUTERS file photo

French President Emmanuel Macron will give a televised national address on Sunday night, his fourth since the start of the coronavirus crisis, seeking fresh momentum for the final two years of his term.

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Watch Macron's address live on FRANCE 24 at 8pm Paris time (GMT+2)

Macron has seen his poll ratings slide amid criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic, which saw France’s cherished healthcare system stretched to the limit.

On top of a biting recession triggered by the coronavirus lockdown, the French leader is now grappling with a potent new protest movement against police racism and brutality inspired by the George Floyd rallies in the US.

>> ‘Black and treated as such’: France’s anti-racism protests expose myth of colour-blind Republic

The president’s prime-time address comes two weeks ahead of delayed local elections in which his ruling party faces a severe beating, according to opinion polls.

Macron's La République en Marche (LREM) party lost its absolute majority in parliament last month after several MPs defected to form independent groups.

It is now bracing for a humiliating setback in the second round of municipal elections on June 28, with opinion polls showing its candidates are unlikely to capture any major city, including Paris.

Even Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is facing a tough battle to recover his seat as mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre.

Speculation has mounted that a cabinet shuffle is in the works as Macron seeks fresh momentum for the final two years of his five-year term.

No plans to step down

The coronavirus outbreak has effectively stalled his ambitious policy reforms, including the controversial pensions overhaul that sparked a huge strike last winter.

Earlier this week, Macron’s office was forced to deny a media report that the president planned to step down to prompt a snap election.

The Figaro newspaper said Macron had made the shock announcement while speaking via videoconference to a handful of the largest donors to his centrist party.

The goal would have been to reinforce his legitimacy as France emerges from its coronavirus lockdown and to destabilise his opponents, the newspaper claimed.

But Macron's office said: "We deny this report. The president never suggested his resignation. (...) He never took part in a videoconference with donors."

The Figaro report also cited an unnamed Elysée Palace official, who said: "We're entering a phase of reflection and consultations, where everything is being considered."

The official added that Macron's decision could come "in the coming weeks or months".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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