Macron just backed down to the yellow vest protesters

The fuel tax hike will reportedly be suspended.
December 4, 2018, 12:25pm

The French government is backing down from its planned fuel tax hike that sparked violent protests in Paris, according to multiple reports published Tuesday.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will announce the suspension of the tax, which was due to come into force on Jan. 1, local and international media reported, citing government sources. Stopping the tax, which the government said was to fund green initiatives, was a core demand of the so-called “yellow vest” protest movement.

The concession would be the first major policy U-turn for President Emmanuel Macron since coming to power last year, and a major back down from his tough talk in previous days.

“The perpetrators of this violence do not want change, they don’t want any improvement, they want chaos,” he said on Saturday as the protests erupted.

But after meeting with opposition leaders Monday, Macron made the call to suspend the tax hikes, according to reports. With yellow vests calling for repeat demonstrations on Saturday, he faced an urgent deadline to address their grievances.

The “yellow vests” protests — named after the hi-vis jackets French drivers are required to keep in their cars — began in November to express anger at rising fuel prices, before morphing into a broader protest at the economic policies of Macron’s centrist, pro-business government.

The sprawling, leaderless movement, which drew national support from across the political spectrum, called for Macron to abolish the fuel tax, boost the minimum wage, and reinstate a wealth tax on high-earners his government scrapped last year.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the “yellow vests” and the Paris riots

Philippe had been scheduled to meet with a delegation of the protesters on Tuesday afternoon, but the talks were cancelled after some of the yellow vests received threats of violence from hardliners in the movement warning them not to deal with the government.

Despite Saturday’s demonstrations resulting in 400 arrests, 130 people being injured and more than 3 million euros ($3.4 million) in damage, the yellow vests appear to have public support.

More than 70 percent of the French public back the protesters, according to a recent survey, while Macron’s support has dropped to 23 percent.

Cover image: Yellow vest throw objects towards riot police in Toulouse, France on December 2, 2018. (Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)