He didn’t listen to advice after the election any more than he did before it. Now, French unrest has spread from fuel tax anger into something much biggerby Pauline Bock / December 4, 2018 / Leave a comment
After French protesters in gilets jaunes, or “yellow vests,” blocked roads around the country for the third week in a row and riots turned violent on Paris’ Champs-Elysées at the weekend, Emmanuel Macron took a rare decision. He would not say a word.
Back from the G20 in Argentina, the French president walked the streets of Paris that had been vandalised the previous day, visiting the Arc de Triomphe where the anti-tax protesters had tagged “the yellow vests will prevail.” He cancelled a meal with Michelin-starred chefsto have lunch with Paris police forces. He thanked the police for their “courage,” but said nothing to the French people. He focused on “internal meetings” instead of rushing to explain himself.
It took three weeks of national unrest, blockades at highways and roundabouts across France, a prefecture and many police cars to be put on fire, three deaths, and hundreds of thousands of French people wearing the neon safety vest in protest against his fiscal policies for Emmanuel Macron to keep quiet.
The president had previously addressed the gilets jaunes, saying he had “heard their anger”—a PR-perfect phrase then repeated on every TV and radio channel by MPs from his party La République En Marche (LREM), slightly diffusing its original authenticity. Macron offered to index the fuel tax—which had sparked the first protests—on the prices of the international oil market. By doing so, he thought he could contain the movement. As a result, days later, “Macron resignation” was tagged on Paris’ Champs-Elysées.
In a recent poll, 72 per cent of French people said Emmanuel Macron is arrogant. 71 per cent say he is disconnected. The gilets jaunes movement, as violent as its fringes get, is supported by 73 per cent of the population. Students, farmers, and people from the banlieues are joining in. Unions are calling for strikes. The French unrest has spread from fuel tax anger into something much bigger.
Emmanuel Macron’s arrogance helped him rise to the Elysée, and the same arrogance will be his demise. From 2016, when he resigned from his minister position to declare his presidential candidacy before his boss François Hollande, Macron was seen as cocky and daring. He didn’t listen to those who advised to wait for the…