Macron, Paris Fans Greet French National Soccer Team Winners
(Bloomberg) -- France’s victorious national soccer team paraded down Paris’s landmark Champs Elysees avenue Monday on their way to a celebration at the presidential palace, where Emmanuel Macron can only hope their success and popularity rubs off on him.
He may be disappointed.
“A World Cup won’t make political opposition to Macron go away,” said Bruno Jeanbart, director general at pollsters OpinionWay. “The opposition is because of issues like taxation; it’s not a question of the national mood.”
The French president was present at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium where France defeated Croatia 4-2 on Sunday for its second World Cup. A photo of him jumping for joy went viral. He later went to the dressing room where videos shot by the players showed him drinking, dancing, and singing with the team before telling them how proud they’d made the country and what an example they were for its youth.
Throughout Sunday night, overjoyed supporters waving the nation’s blue-white-and-red flags screamed, honked and celebrated across the country. (But a popular coffee shop on the Champs Elysees was looted, 149 cars burned in the Paris region, 292 people were arrested, and BFM TV reported that numerous women posted Tweets about being aggressed by drunken revelers.)
By mid-afternoon on Monday, hundreds of thousands of fans were already lined up on the Champs Elysees to welcome the team, whose slow drive down the avenue in a open top bus didn’t start until about 7:20pm. Jets flew overhead to make French red-white-and-blue flags with their exhaust. They arrived half an hour later at the Elysee palace, where the team was met by a thousand youth players and Macron, who thanked them on behalf of the French people.
“Thanks for bringing home this cup, thanks for making us proud,” Macron said. “Don’t forget where you come from, and you’ve come a long way.” Much of the team was born and grew up in tough immigrant neighborhoods around Paris and Lyon.
Macron doesn’t generate such enthusiasm. His approval rating has fallen to an average of 33 percent, down 13 percentage points since the start of the year, hovering very close to the record low of his predecessor and former boss, Socialist President Francois Hollande. Polls routinely show that the French find him aloof and arrogant, and think changes he’s made to France’s taxes and labor laws largely benefit the well-off.
Ifop, another pollster, said in a posting on Twitter that “there is no World Cup effect in politics.” Frederic Dabi, head of Ifop’s opinion division, said Macron could get a “boost of oxygen” that could add a few points to his ratings, but with no lasting effect.
In 1998, then President Jacques Chirac did benefit from a 15 percentage-point jump in popularity after France won its first World Cup and an approval rating that flirted with 70 percent, according to Ipsos. But at the time, Dabi points out, Chirac’s party didn’t control the government, leaving then Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to take the blame for day-to-day governing while Chirac was free to act as head of state.
The victory isn’t expected to have much economic impact, again unlike 1998 when the World Cup was held in France itself. Ludovic Subran, head of economic research at insurers Euler Hermes, said the victory may add 0.1 percentage points to France’s gross domestic product. The economy may expand 1.9 percent instead of 1.8 percent, according to the Paris-based economist’s forecast. It will also improve consumption by 0.2 points to 1.3 percent, he said.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was more confident ahead of the game. “A World Cup victory gives French people confidence,” he said on France 2 television on July 11. “There is a part of irrationality in economy, that thrives on confidence, desire and enthusiasm.”
OpinionWay’s Jeanbart said that after a few days of blanket media coverage, attention will dwindle.
“By next weekend people will leaving on holiday, and by the time they come back they’ll have moved on to something else,” he said.
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