PARIS (Reuters) - Former French president Francois Hollande has warned his pomp-loving successor Emmanuel Macron: don’t forget French royals lost their heads at the guillotine.
In extracts from his new book Lessons of Power the Socialist politician seeks to re-write the record books on his five years in office, which culminated when he became the first French leader not to seek re-election in recent history.
Hollande’s decision was driven by unpopularity and he argued that voters could turn on Macron. He attacked the remote and imperious style his former economy minister has adopted since he became president last May.
“I never signed up to the monarchical conception of the Fifth Republic’s institutions. Those who say the people are looking for a king should never forget they’re in a country where the monarch had his head cut off,” Hollande told L’Obs magazine ahead of the book’s launch on Wednesday.
Since his election, Macron has used regal symbols to give his presidency a touch of majesty, from his victory speech at the Louvre to his decision to address lawmakers at the sumptuous palace of France’s former monarchy in Versailles.
The last resident of Versailles, King Louis XVI, was executed by guillotine in central Paris in 1793 during the French Revolution and his wife Marie Antoinette was guillotined later that year.
Macron himself has said France is a nation of “regicidal monarchists”. “It’s a paradox: the French want to be able to elect a king but they also want to be able to overthrow him at the drop of a hat,” he told Der Spiegel in an interview last year. “As president, one can’t expect to be loved.”
In a series of attacks, Hollande also accused Macron of deepening social inequalities through tax cuts that help the wealthy and corporations — policy reforms that had led left-wingers to brand the former banker a “president of the rich”.
Hollande famously hailed himself the enemy of finance and imposed a 75 percent “super-tax” on the rich after his 2012 election. He later scrapped it and adopted more investor-friendly policies, though he never recovered from a rebellion inside his party.
“My governments reduced inequalities, this one increases them,” Hollande, who had been in self-imposed silence since he stepped down last May, writes in the book.
Relations between Hollande and his former protege, who quit the Socialist government to launch his own run for office, sunk to such a low that on Tuesday Le Monde dubbed it a “cold war”.
Hollande’s barrage came as Macron approaches his first anniversary in power defending reforms to reshape the French economy that have fuelled mounting discontent among rail workers, students, public sector employees and pensioners.
Even so, in a sign that Hollande may struggle to earn back the French public’s love, his prime-time slot on public broadcaster France 2 to sell his book was a ratings flop.
Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Lough and Matthew Mpoke Bigg