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News > France

Two-thirds Back France's 'Yellow Vest' Protests against Macron

  • Masked protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, take part in a demonstration on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, November 24, 2018.

    Masked protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, take part in a demonstration on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, November 24, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 November 2018

The poll was carried out on Tuesday after Macron sought to defuse the unrest by pledging to defer future tax rises, but it found relatively stable support for the "yellow vests" since the start of the movement.

Two in three people back the "yellow vest" protests in France, and nearly 80 percent reject measures proposed by President Emmanuel Macron as "insufficient," according to an opinion poll published Wednesday.

Police and 'Yellow Vest' Protesters Clash in France

Sixty-six percent of those questioned said they supported the protests sparked by higher fuel taxes, underway for the past 12 days, which have seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets wearing high-visibility yellow jackets.

Only 32 percent of respondents said they opposed the movement, which has caused economic disruption as demonstrators hold up road traffic, the Opinion Way survey found.

Macron also pledged a three-month public consultation aimed at producing a roadmap to help France shift to a low-carbon economy without penalizing low-income families. But he refused to go back on an increase in fuel tax which is due to come into force in January, claiming it is needed to help fight pollution.

While initially focused on fuel taxes, the "yellow vest" movement has snowballed into wider protests against economic hardship in provincial France and perceived elitism on Macron's part.

Seventy-eight percent of the 1,013 people questioned said the measures announced by the president were "wholly" or "mostly insufficient".

Nearly 80 percent oppose the planned fuel tax hike in January according to the survey, conducted for LCI television, RTL radio and the Le Figaro newspaper.

Violent protests in Paris last weekend made international headlines when the city's most famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees, was engulfed in smoke from tear gas and burning barricades.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday that he was ready to meet a delegation of protesters, saying: "What they say includes a lot of very legitimate demands which must be heard."

But such a meeting might prove difficult to organize as many in the grassroots movement, which emerged through social media, have refused to recognize eight "representatives" chosen in a Facebook ballot.

The movement has also refused any alignment with political parties or labor unions.

Philippe, told RMC radio and BFMTV he would start discussing grievances with trade unions, community groups and local officials on Thursday in line with Macron's effort to engage with the public.

Annick Girardin, minister for France's overseas territories, was meanwhile engaged in her own peace efforts on Wednesday, meeting with "yellow vests" in the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion where the protests have erupted into rioting and paralyzed the local economy.

Philippe confirmed the January 1 tax increase which will see petrol prices go up by three euro cents a liter (about 3 U.S. cents) and diesel by 6 euro cents.

Should international oil prices later surge "we shall not add extra taxes", he promised, but "shall return to the tax level of January 1."

Officially, the measure is implemented in a bid to fight climate change, and received the —cautious— support of the environmental organizations gathered in Réseau climat. The federation welcomed a "necessary measure that will release France from its oil addiction," yet admitting that French people were "vulnerable" to increases in oil prices.

However, the daily paper Le Monde revealed earlier this month that out of the US$42.8 billion generated to the public budget by the new tax, only US$9.5 billion (about one fifth) will be reallocated to the environment.

French journal Liberation found that the measure will affect five more times the 10 percent poorest French families as compared to the 10 percent richest — giving further evidence that Macron's move actually means to rebalance the state budget affected by the earlier measures, like the suppression of taxes for the wealthiest.

As complaints grow that France's poorest struggle to make ends meet, trade unions have been calling instead for an above-inflation boost to the minimum wage, earned by 11.5 percent of the workforce. Both the CGT trade union and a number of prominent "yellow vests" have called for fresh demonstrations in Paris on Saturday.

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