France's Macron under fire for upscale celebration

By REUTERS
April 25, 2017 17:26
1 minute read.
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PARIS - French presidential favorite Emmanuel Macron came under fire from both potential allies and his run-off rival Marine Le Pen on Tuesday for acting as if victory next month was already in the bag.

Macron's visit to a Left Bank brasserie on Sunday night after his first round triumph in particular handed ammunition to his opponents who described it as shallow, arrogant behavior.

Macron, a 39-year old former investment banker, pipped the National Front candidate to first place on Sunday and opinion polls see him comfortably beating Le Pen on May 7 to win the keys to the Elysee.

He took to the stage to thank his supporters in a 15-minute speech with his arms held aloft in a V for victory before going on with aides and a few celebrities to La Rotonde brasserie.

"They were patting themselves on the back with the whole celeb crew," Le Pen remarked while visiting a wholesale market near Paris on Tuesday. "It shows that this arrogant cast thinks it's already won and can do what it wants with the country."

A centrist who has never held elected office, Macron would be France's youngest ever president. He was silent the day after voting, leaving the field open to Le Pen who canvassed support in northern France where unemployment is high.

She attacked Macron for being "weak" in the face of terrorism, days after an Islamist militant killed a policeman on the Champs Elysees boulevard.

Political leaders from France's two shell-shocked mainstream parties on the right and left have endorsed Macron, including the unpopular outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande and defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon.

Yet perceptions of complacency could pose a big risk to Macron's Elysee bid. Pollsters say a low turnout would favor Le Pen.

Many compared Macron's dinner at La Rotonde, an elegant brasserie favored by artists such as Ernest Hemingway before the war, to former president Nicolas Sarkozy's victory celebration at the upscale Fouquet's restaurant in central Paris in 2007.

Those images gave ammunition to Sarkozy's opponents who portrayed him as the "bling-bling" president, an image that stuck throughout his mandate.

"The Rotonde was a mistake," Dominique Wolton, a political communication specialist at French research institute CNRS. "It's extraordinary that they repeated the Fouquet's mistake again."

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