French President Emmanuel Macron has sparked new criticism from his political opponents after saying he will make life difficult for those citizens who refuse a Covid-19 vaccine.
“I am not for bothering the French. I rant all day at the administration when it blocks them. Well, there, the unvaccinated, I really want to hassle them. And so, we will continue to do it, until the end,” the French leader said in an interview with Le Parisien, published Tuesday night, according to a CNBC translation.
Macron used the French word “emmerder” in his interview with Le Parisien, which can be roughly translated as “hassle” or “annoy,” or would be close to the phrase “piss off.”
His comments coincided with parliamentary discussions over Covid passes — documents that state whether someone has been vaccinated — which are used to attend certain events. A bill preventing the unvaccinated from entering most public spaces and transport was meant to be approved this week, but has been postponed after death threats on some lawmakers.
Macron’s words led different political leaders to criticize the incumbent president, with elections due in the spring.
Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration Rassemblement National, said via Twitter: “This vulgarity and this violence of the President of the Republic prove that he never considered himself the president of all French people.”
Fabien Roussel, the leader of the French Communist Party, called Macron’s remarks “unworthy and irresponsible.”
Stephan Troussel, a member of the Socialist Party, said that Macron is playing with fire.
In the same interview with Le Parisien, Macron also said that he would not vaccinate people by force. However, he added that he would encourage people to get their Covid shots by restricting the access that unvaccinated people have to social activities by as much as possible.
Around 73% of the French population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 34.3% of the population has received a third dose.
The latest discussion over vaccine mandates comes just months before a key presidential election in France. Voters will be heading to the polls in late April. Macron has not yet said whether he will be seeking a second mandate, but the expectation is that he will be running again.