Thursday, 2 December 2021 | News today: 0

France to suspend fuel price hike amid Yellow Vest protests

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to reverse course and suspend a planned fuel tax that has sent as many as 300,000 protesters into the streets for three weekends in sometimes violent clashes, according to Agence France-Presse.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will announce the decision Tuesday, AFP reported, citing the premier’s office.

The government is seeking to bring an end to the Yellow Vests protests that have defaced the Arc de Triomphe, burned hundreds of cars, blocked roads and fuel depots, and are starting to spill into other sectors of the population.

The turnaround comes as Macron’s popularity hit a new low. A poll by Ifop for Paris Match magazine and Sud-Radio released Tuesday found the president’s support down six points to 23 percent. Philippe was at 26 percent.

It was another blow for Macron, 40, who came to office 18 months ago by all but obliterating France’s two major parties and winning against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. While he and parliament, where his Republic on the Move party holds a majority, don’t face new elections until 2022, the reversal on taxes may not be enough to save his reform agenda.

Even before it was officially announced, the tax moratorium failed to appease some of the protesters. One student union rejected it and called for a “Black Tuesday” demonstration on Dec. 11.

Benjamin Cauchy, a Yellow Vests member, told France Info radio Tuesday that it wasn’t enough. “We won’t let them put us to sleep with a moratorium, our demands are much broader than that,” he said.

The Yellow Vests protest started three weeks ago when a group of people called on the government to abandon planned gasoline taxes and marked their opposition in road blockades, demonstrations and eventually in violent actions in Paris. The name yellow vests comes from the colored garments motorists are required to keep in their cars for emergencies.

“A moratorium will not do at this point,” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, an environmentalist and a close ally of Macron, said on France Inter. “The president will have to take over after that and put other things on the table.”

Cohn-Bendit, one of the leading figures of the May 1968 protests in France, cited more measures on the wealth tax and income taxes.

Still, the grassroots, leaderless Yellow Vests movement is struggling to structure itself.

Philippe’s office said that a meeting planned later Tuesday with representatives of the movement had been canceled after invitees received death threats from fellow protesters.