Just reelected, Macron is already pelted with questions — and tomatoes – The Washington Post

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PARIS — Three days after celebrating a decisive reelection in a carefully choreographed victory speech at the Eiffel Tower, President Emmanuel Macron returned Wednesday to the rougher reality of a divided France: being pelted with voters’ questions — and tomatoes.

As he mingled with crowds at a market square in the diverse Parisian suburb of Cergy, to ostensibly show that he is serious about his pledge to unite the country, the French leader had to suddenly take cover under an umbrella after bystanders were hit by cherry tomatoes. The projectiles were probably thrown by a vendor, according to France’s public broadcaster.

Macron did not appear to have been hit, and it was unclear what prompted the tomato-throwing.

Bystanders screamed, and the president’s entourage escorted him away. The BFM television channel, which broadcast the incident, reported that Macron resumed his outing — the first public one since Sunday — in a covered section of the square. No more tomatoes were reported to have been thrown.

If political motives prompted the tomato-throwing, it wouldn’t be the first time Macron has faced the ire of his detractors in such a way. Last year, a man slapped Macron’s face, shouting “Down with Macronism” before the security detail rushed in. Macron has had eggs thrown at him several times, including in 2016, 2017 and 2021.

Such incidents have sometimes resulted in convictions, and have fueled concerns about presidential security and a radicalization of political discourse.

It was not clear Wednesday whether authorities would take legal action against the person who hurled the tomatoes.

In the lead-up to the election, Macron had faced mounting criticism that he was aloof and disconnected from the people. That criticism appeared to prompt a shift in his campaigning after the first round of voting more than two weeks ago — with Macron seemingly more approachable as he toured the country and interacted with voters in the days ahead of the runoff vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with crowds at a market in Cergy, a Paris suburb, on April 27. (Video: AP)

Macron won decisively. Now can he secure his mandate and unite a divided France?

Before narrowly escaping the cherry tomatoes Wednesday, he told the crowd that his encounters with voters hadn’t been just a reelection strategy. “I will continue to go in the field … to meet the French,” said Macron, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in five years.

Speaking in Cergy, a neighborhood confronting numerous economic and social woes, he promised to appoint a prime minister who is a strong advocate of “social and environmental” issues, and he vowed to “work together to find solutions” to the concerns of voters increasingly frustrated with France’s political establishment.

His reception in Cergy in some ways also appeared to encapsulate the daunting challenges he faces as he seeks to unite the country and secure his mandate in parliamentary elections in June.

Typically, legislative elections favor the presidential party and allies, and Macron may still benefit from the momentum of his win. But both far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who was his challenger in the Sunday runoff, and far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who ran in the presidential election, view the June vote as an opportunity to gain a parliamentary majority and disrupt Macron’s agenda.

France’s Macron wins presidency, holding off Le Pen’s far-right threat to upend Europe and relations with Russia

Almost half of all voters in Cergy cast their ballots for Mélenchon in the first round of voting, on April 10. Macron was far behind, at 24 percent. But in the runoff between Le Pen and Macron, the incumbent won the suburb easily with more than 76 percent of the vote.

Macron’s decisive victory over Le Pen can be attributed to places like Cergy, and now many leftist voters, who supported him only to prevent a far-right victory, feel that he owes them.

As he left Cergy, Macron tweeted out a video of residents cheering him. “I will be there for our neighborhoods throughout my tenure,” he wrote.

He didn’t mention the tomatoes.

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Just reelected, Macron is already pelted with questions — and tomatoes – The Washington Post

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