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As protests rages in France, Macron remains invisible

AP  |  Paris 

As anti-government protests rage through and locks down, fearing new riots, the man whose presidency has the is nowhere to be seen.

French has stayed out of the public eye all week, leaving his unpopular government to try to calm the nation.

In response, "Macron, resign!" has become the main slogan of the "yellow vest" demonstrators. The protesters' has been directed at the French leader, who they feel has been the "of the rich" and is out-of-touch with ordinary people.

Macron's pro-business reforms have aimed to make the French economy more competitive globally, but French workers see the changes as brutal and weakening their rights.

Macron, whose popularity plummeted in recent months, is also widely seen as arrogant, which comes out when he tells an unemployed man he can find a job if he "crosses the street," or advising a retiree not to complain.

The 40-year-old leader mostly spent the week holding closed-door meetings in the Elysee presidential palace, which many protesters see as an ivory tower where he is hiding away from the people.

The president's office said he would not speak before Saturday's anti-government protests.

is a who likes the limelight, one who has sought a prominent place on the world stage since his surprise election last year.

Just a week ago, he was basking in the international limelight at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, challenging US President on climate change and protectionist trade measures.

As he met with other world leaders last weekend, images of burning barricades in and the monument in a cloud of tear gas were all over the television screens.

Just back from Argentina, Macron went directly to the to see the damages to the monument but the media was not allowed to ask him questions or come close.

On Monday he had a discreet lunch with anti-riot police officers in eastern Paris, again without press. The next day, he paid a two-hour unannounced visit to Puy-en-Velay, in central France, where protesters earlier had set the provincial government's headquarters on fire.

A few local reporters and other journalists who were there by chance reported that Macron was booed and insulted by a small crowd.

On Friday evening, Macron paid a quick visit to anti-riot security forces that were to be deployed Saturday in the French capital. No media was there.

His office said he met with about 60 police officers at a fort east of and thanked them for their service. Instead, has been sent to the front lines to face opposition lawmakers at parliament and explain the government's security measures on television.

In France, the president traditionally makes the key policy choices, especially in the fields of defense and foreign policy, while the is in charge of day-to-day decisions, especially those related to domestic issues.

Macron doesn't face re-election until 2022 and his party has a strong majority in parliament yet his ability to pass sweeping reforms may be weakened by the yellow vests movement.

Observers have suggested that Philippe's resignation might ultimately be considered as a way to protect Macron especially if the mood in doesn't calm down. But Philippe on Thursday rejected suggestions that he should quit.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, December 08 2018. 07:05 IST