“Arranged everything himself”: French President’s rating raised with slaps

Ten months before the elections, the French president received a slap in the face – during a trip to the southeast of the country, to the Drome department, in the town of Tennes-l’Hermitage, he approached the locals who were greeting him, but the first handshake ended with 28-year-old Damien Tarel slapped the president in the face. Shouting out at the same time “Montjoie Saint-Denis!” and “Down with Macrony!”

"Arranged everything himself": French President's rating raised with slaps

A lot of conspiracy and not so versions of what happened immediately appeared – according to some, everything was set up by Macron himself to raise his greatly reduced rating. Moreover, in ten days there will be municipal elections, at which his parties are predicted a crushing defeat. Marine Le Pen, the most popular politician in France and Macron’s main rival in the upcoming presidential elections next April, predicted literally the day before that “Forward, Republic!” will show “the worst regional election results ever received by the ruling party”. And after a slap in the face in the Hermitage, all French politicians stood up for Macron: no one, but still a president, a symbol of the nation, it is not worth slapping him in the face.

Even Le Pen “strongly condemned unacceptable physical aggression against the President of the Republic.” So, according to the conspiracy theorists, the incident could benefit Macron, albeit a political one, by returning part of the lost electorate. And if so, then he himself organized it.

The obvious weakness of this version is that its supporters have previously imputed to Macron the creation of “yellow vests”, which is utter nonsense. Macron, of course, is the creation of behind-the-scenes masters and political strategists, and he is an excellent manipulator himself – but still not so sophisticated as to come up with additional problems. What was the plus with the “yellow vests”? To scare citizens with rampant anarchy – in conditions when the mantra about the “extremist and fascist” Le Pen no longer works? Well, this is not even a risky, but just a stupid calculation – if, of course, Macron really stood behind the promotion of the “vests”.

But he did not stand – just as there is no reason to suspect him of the current squabble. Not only because it is unprofitable for him (pity will not go far – but the memory of his humiliation and insult will remain with all the French), but also for the simple reason that the very circumstances of the “incident in Tennes-l’Hermitage” are as follows: that no political strategist would have enough imagination to come up with them.

Damien Tarel, a local resident who slapped Macron in the face, is a monarchist and reenactor. Shouted out to them the cry “Montjoy Saint-Denis!” – the motto of kings and the battle cry of the French medieval knights, and its literal meaning is already so forgotten in the anticlerical republic that the French press had to explain it to its readers.

Saint Denis is the burial vault of French monarchs, an abbey consecrated in honor of Saint Dionysius, the patron saint of France, but “Montjoy” is explained either by the sword of Charlemagne, or by the mountain near Jerusalem, named so during the First Crusade. But the most beautiful and much more plausible version refers “Montjoy” to the name of the Oriflamme gonfalon, which was kept behind the throne in the cathedral of the Abbey of Saint-Denis. The small red banner became the standard of Charlemagne and the main military banner of the French kings.

But if the battle cry is still alive among the French monarchists, so there is nothing particularly surprising in its use by a young reenactor, then you cannot specifically choose the day on which the incident occurred. That is, of course, one can suspect Macron’s political strategists of this too – but such rapprochements can only be arranged with life.

The fact is that June 8 is the day of remembrance of the never-reigned king Louis XVII. Dauphin Louis-Charles was proclaimed monarch (by the exiled royalists) after the execution of his father, but spent the last two years of his life in re-education and imprisonment. On June 8, 1795, a ten-year-old boy died of tuberculosis – and only in 2004 was his heart buried in the Abbey of Saint-Denis. And exactly on June 8th.

So Macron does not need such “greetings from the monarchists” at all, especially in a situation when the French military and security officials (and among them the share of monarchists is higher than among ordinary citizens) warn of unrest and upheavals impending in France. Macron, on the other hand, is trying to win the sympathy of at least a part of the right – in order to win the upcoming elections in April against Marine Le Pen.

Which is no longer perceived by French society as “the main threat to the republic”: now this place has been taken by the leader of the left, Luc Melanchon. Melanchon’s defense of the rights of the Muslim community (against the background of Macron’s unsuccessful attempts to “build” a Muslim community) seems to most French people a greater threat to “republican principles” than the alleged xenophobia of Marine Le Pen.

The French were disappointed in Macron fashioned according to political technological patterns (young, modern, supposedly not belonging to the corrupt ruling elite) after a year of his presidency. But will a slap in the face on June 8 put an end to his chances of re-election? In April we will see the score on the scoreboard, but in any case, the French (and not only monarchists) will now increasingly repeat: “Montjoy Saint Denis!” After all, the hope for the revival of “beautiful France” dies last.


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