France, "Yellow Vests" and Politically Weakened Macron

Мany experts believe that if Macron’s supporters do not win during the European Parliament election on Sunday (they probably won’t), then it can only spur the protests and give them a second breath in their original form.

Over time, the protests of the "yellow vests" in France have changed. Those "yellow vests" who took to thestreets all over France (mostly in the provinces) in late November and early December are not the same people who, since February, have been smashing up shops in major cities throughout the country. Today radicals, anarchists, and ultra-leftists dominate. Initially, the protest was supported by 2/3, or even by 3/4 of the population. People advocated the abolition of the increase in excise taxes on petrol and a number of other taxes. These demands remain popular today, but the social characteristics of the rallies themselves have changed: violence, the rounding up of instigators, etc. For the new protesters, the goal is simple - to overthrow not only Macron, but also the republic itself.

The problems raised by the first wave of “yellow vests” have not been resolved, despite certain offers by Macron, which he has always been hesitant to make.

It all started in October-November with a rise in petrol and diesel prices. The "vests" asked the government not to raise taxes. The Macron administration failed to respond in a timely manner, prompting the demonstrators to demand more: better pensions, higher salaries, and a referendum. Macron is always late. He was late in December, when he agreed to the first budget injections. Then he launched the so-called nationwide “big debate”, which was perceived by most of the population as an attempt to play for time until the next elections. The French people have not gotten answers to their questions and inquiries, and they have begun to feel that Macron is engaged in politicking rather than listening. The price of petrol is now at the same level as in the fall and European Parliamentary elections are being held, but real measures have not been taken.

This protest movement is unprecedented in itself: for six months, every Saturday, discontent French citizens have made their opinions known through protests. Macron has failed to calm them using political measures. These demonstrations have often been destructive and have been met with the allegedly excessive use of force. These are unprecedented events for modern France, although historically there were many different kinds of rallies in the country. But violent responses to demonstrations have largely been unheard of in living memory, even in 1968. Now, for example, dozens of people have been injured by security personnel who attacked them with traumatic weapons. This can be considered a defeat, for the authorities and the Minister of the Interior, personally.

As for the continuation of the protests, the summer is likely to see new adjustments. Nevertheless, many experts believe that if Macron’s supporters do not win during the European Parliament election on Sunday (they probably won’t), then it can only spur the protests and give them a second breath in their original form.

France has always been and remains a nation of protesters. French society is a very sensitive organism that is difficult to manage. Now French society is falling victim to a global trend - the erosion of the middle class, and the French are acutely aware of this. The middle class is afraid of "going one floor down". Pessimism, in this regard, is visible in all internal surveys, and in France it is much stronger than in other European countries. This is a protest against Macron; many pinned their hopes with him, and in a year he lost all of his political capital. Many French voters blame him for acting as president of the rich, and not the leader of all the people of France. A number of Macron’s statements, especially those he’s made abroad, were perceived very painfully by his countrymen. The increase in gasoline prices was only a pretext, which detonated a powder keg of discontent.

Macron is politically weakened. His only hope is a split in the opposition. The main condition for survival, the main insurance of his presidency, is that his main opponent is Marine Le Pen. He hopes to repeat his 2017 success in 2022, and that he and Le Pen will reach the second round. This is the only condition which could secure his victory. Everything is being done in order to cultivate this fight and convince people that Macron is the last line of defence against fascism. Time will tell how it works. It is doubtful that the French will want a repetition of such a scenario.

Yellow Vests and Tricolor: From Environment to Politics
The events in France painted the autumn with a special color. The actions of Yellow Vests, which began from dissatisfaction with environmental changes, so popular in Europe, became a source of internal political demands and added new nuances to the development of the Fifth Republic.
Follow the link
© Reuters
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.