Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated – a slangy, cutting remark that prompted howls of condemnation from opposition rivals less than four months before the next presidential election.
“The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so, we’re going to continue doing so, until the end. That’s the strategy,” Macron told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published late on Tuesday.
The expression “emmerder”, from “merde” (shit), can also be translated as meaning “to get on someone’s nerves”, “to annoy” or “to make life difficult for someone”. It is considered “very informal” by French dictionary Larousse and is widely used by people in all levels of French society, including children. It is not regarded as being as strong as its English equivalent.
Macron’s comments further complicated the already difficult passage in parliament of the government’s planned new vaccine pass. Lawmakers debated into early Wednesday morning before their discussions were again suspended, disrupted by opposition outrage over Macron’s remarks.
France last year put in place a health pass that prevents people without a PCR test, proof of vaccination or recent infection to enter restaurants, cafes and other venues. The government wants to turn it into a vaccine passport that removes testing and previous infection from the equation.
The pass will also be required on inter-regional trains and buses, and on domestic flights.
“I won’t send (the unvaccinated) to prison, I won’t vaccinate by force,” Macron said. “So we need to tell them, from January 15, you won’t be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won’t be able to down one, won’t be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema.”
Opposition lawmakers protested audibly in the National Assembly chamber as Macron’s health minister, Olivier Veran, sought to defend the President’s choice of words.
Veran said Macron’s interview demonstrated his “intention, above all, to protect the population.”