246 Varieties of cheese

—-If you came here looking to read about French cheese, let me tell you you will be disappointed—-

Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a 246 variétés de fromage?

How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese? – President Charles de Gaulle

Have you tried them all, General de Gaulle?

If President de Gaulle knew how many more varieties of cheese you can find in France nowadays, (around 1200) he would be surprised. But I think President de Gaulle would be more surprised about how hard it can be to govern a country with so many different opinions, backgrounds, interests, etc.

In light of the recent protests and the upcoming mayoral elections, it is hard to avoid the question “what do the French people want from their government?” And that seems to be a question that does not have a straightforward answer. On one side, there were the yellow vest protesters demanding a change in the fuel tax by the Macron government. However, these events also demonstrate a crisis of representative democracy, as the yellow vest movement refused to elect representatives and “play the game” with the existing rules.

Protests are less frequent now

A different group of protesters is the one taking the streets to fight back the changes in the retirement system. Macron has already made concessions, but it seems like the protesters are not satisfied just yet. And Macron’s approval rate, which oscillates between 27-30%, will reflect how he deals with these difficult situation.

So what do the French people want? The answer may be in Macron’s party identification. En Marche, a centrist party (center-left, if you ask a right winger, and center-right, if you ask a left winger) is a party that won the elections due to the general disenchantment of the people with the left-wing party, the Parti Socialiste, and with the right-wing party, the Front National. En Marche was elected by a non-ideological centrism.

The French are too different, too diverse, to all want one thing. And that may be the biggest challenge for elected officials going forward.