While French President Emmanuel Macron swept to power on a surge of populist sentiment, there was always the chance that things would go sour quickly. His winning margin was at least partly due to widespread dislike of his final round opponent, Marine Le Pen.

Many people on the traditional right and left wing of French politics were uneasy at his sudden rise, with a trajectory taking him from Presidential advisor to President in little more than three years. A couple of months after taking office, this dissent has formed into a more coherent opposition. As yet, however, it has not stopped Macron from continuing with his political plans.

Prior to his election, the biggest point of contention was his plan to shake up the labour market, eliminating protections that had become emblematic of France’s work-life balance. With France suffering from one of the highest rates of youth unemployment and lowest GDP growth rates in the EU, Macron feels that a seismic - and potentially painful - shift is necessary.

The former economy minister under President Hollande believes that the best way to do this is to cut down on what he sees as ‘red tape’, and curtail some of the protections and luxuries afforded to workers. His plans include giving businesses the ability to hire and fire without paying large amounts of compensation, and to work longer hours, particularly on Sundays.

Related article: Pro Business or Pro Worker - Why the French Are Striking Against Employment Law Reforms

Many in French society, however, see this as an unacceptable erosion of a key tenet of French life. At a point when public sentiment against big business and the banking sector still broils, the former investment banker is accused in some quarters of taking from the poor to give to the rich.

The outcry has only grown louder after a string of gaffes, including attempting to grant his wife a paid position. It brought to mind the scandal surrounding Francois Fillon during the Presidential campaign, where Macron was quick to join criticism of the politician for having family members on the public payroll.

Macron launched his bid to change labour laws at the end of August, following several months of consultation with business interests and unions. However, the planned reforms have been issued as rarely used ‘decrees’, meaning that they do not require the assent of Parliament. This and the reduced power of workers in matters of redundancy have left unions unhappy.

Demonstrations have already taken place, with more planned within the next month. Macron has also compounded the issue with further gaffes, most notably suggesting that he would not “not yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extremes.” Some took this as indicating that France’s economic woes are partly down to laziness, a charge most French workers would vigorously deny.

The opening months of Macron’s tenure have been something of a baptism of fire, even by French political standards. He was praised for his response to Donald Trump in early meetings and during G7 talks, but has faced consistent criticism since. Dealing with the fallout from Brexit, the threats of North Korea and a bid to rejuvenate the EU have not been good enough excuses, with the President’s approval ratings falling to 36%, a historic low after 100 days in office.

Related article: Macron vs Merkel: whose plan is better for business?

Macron may find an outlet, if not an escape, in the future of the EU. His relationship with Angela Merkel has started on cautious but positive terms, with commentators earmarking the pair as figureheads for the EU project. Macron’s desire to renovate the European Union’s financial structure will likely meet as much resistance as his plans for France. Like France however, there may be little to stop him achieving an unlikely revolution.

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