June 8, 2017 / 5:37 PM / 6 months ago

Anger vies with hope as Macron's France gears up to vote again

NICE/LYON, France (Reuters) - French voters handed power to a young, untested president a month ago, some hoping he can reboot the country, others simply judging that his far-right opponent was a worse prospect.

Florence Lapica, a general practictioner, poses in her doctor office in Lyon, France, June 2, 2017. Picture taken June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

Damien Canizares, who runs a butcher’s shop with his son in the Mediterranean coastal city of Nice, holds neither of those views.

Matching what a third of voters did in the May 7 presidential election, he will put the name of the candidate representing the National Front (FN) and its leader Marine Le Pen in his parliamentary voting envelope on Sunday.

Le Pen rejects the closer European ties, the embrace of globalization, and the liberalized rules for businesses that centrist President Emmanuel Macron says can bring prosperity.

She does advocate tax cuts for companies, but she would also tax imports, restrict trade, protect workers rights, and close borders to migrants to keep jobs in France and combat Islamist militant attacks.

For voters like Canizares, she is a conduit for anger, and will be again on Sunday.

“(Macron‘s) a young president, and there’s plenty of hope, but sadly nothing will change. Nothing. Because if you don’t change the mentality of people, you change nothing. It’s the people who need to change, not the president, sadly,” he told Reuters.

“I’ll vote Marine, because, sadly I am angry, and if she doesn’t make it, I don’t care, because I‘m angry.”

The 58 year-old -- who says he left school at 13 to start a life of hard work -- believes no government can fix his main concerns.

These are the high tax and social charges he says prevent people from enjoying the fruits of their labor, and the fear of more attacks like the truck rampage that killed 86 people on the promenade 100 meters (yards) from his shop last summer.

Le Pen may well get elected as a lawmaker in the northern constituency she is fighting - but Canizares is right to doubt her chances of having a significant force in parliament.

Opinion polls show her first round vote nationally will be below a fifth, while electoral pacts among the other parties aimed at keeping FN candidates out could keep a party that won only two seats in 2012 but hoped for many more this time in single figures.

GIVING HOPE A CHANCE

Despite anger from voters like Canizares, poll surveys show Macron’s new centrist party and its allies will wind up with a thumping majority in the 577 seat National Assembly. Some predict the biggest since Charles De Gaulle’s conservatives won over 80 percent of seats in 1968.

Stay-at-home father of three Jerome Busson Girie is among those who want that outcome for Macron’s Republic on the March (LREM) party.

At 39, he is the new president’s age, and is on the hunt for a job in a country where unemployment sits around 10 percent.

Macron says he can get that rate down to seven with measures including a corporation tax cut, limits on layoff costs, and more flexible working hours.

“If all goes according to plan he can quickly give businesses back their confidence,” Busson Girie told Reuters at his home in Genas, near France’s third largest city, Lyon.

“The big ones yes, but also the small ones, which all too often hesitate to hire people.”

The former financial controller also favours Macron’s plans for special educational investments in depressed areas and investment in training aimed at sectors that face a skills shortages.

The hope is tinged with caution, however.

Florence Lapica, 42, a general practice doctor in Soucieu-en-Jarrest, another Lyon satellite town, is concerned about France’s creaking public healthcare system, and says it is “too early to tell” whether Macron’s plan to invest 5 billion euros there will go to the right places.

For some, though, it is just a question of giving Macron a shot.

Back on the south coast, Patrick Macquerel is willing to give the new president the benefit of the doubt.

“It all offers hope,” he said from his newspaper kiosk in Marseille.

“You have to go with the flow of the presidential election and give this new government a chance to apply its reforms.”

Additional reporting by Jean-Paul Pelissier in Marseille; Writing by Andrew Callus Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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