December 03, 2018
French protests coming to a head this week
The gilets jaunes insurrection will come to a head this week, after a second day of violent protests in Paris on Saturday with disturbing images of smashed shops and torched cars and protesters storming the Arc de Triomphe. There were over 500 arrests, over 200 were injured and there are reports of petrol shortages in two regions due to depot blockages. On facebook there is already a call for another round of protests this coming Saturday. Many gilets jaunes protesters spoke out against violence. The senate warned that there should not be a third Saturday like this.
Emmanuel Macron may hope to divide the gilets jaunes into constructive and destructive critics. And he passed on the baton to the prime minister to take the front line. The government is now considering whether to launch a state of emergency. There will be dialogue too: Édouard Philippe is to receive all opposition leaders including Marine Le Pen today. Also, the prime minister is to talk to a group of gilets jaunes. About ten regional representatives ready for dialogue will come with a long list of demands.
The majority in parliament is pressing for a concrete signal to the legitimate gilets jaunes. The moratorium on the diesel tax is no longer considered sufficient. How about a rise in minimum wage or a wealth tax? Both are problematic, for parts of the protesters and Macron himself. The protesters' list of demands, meanwhile, is increasing exponentially, and is often self-contradicting. They want more social services and cuts in taxation at the same time; or mobility solutions with a freeze on fuel taxes. They also demand more participation in the political decision-making process, a dose of proportional voting in elections, and referendums on social issues.
Who are the gilets jaunes? According to an Elabe poll about 20% of the French consider themselves as one of them. This is a lot compared to the 24% who voted for Macron last year. Looking at their characteristics the most striking one is that 42% of them voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round of the elections last year. But we note that there are also 5% of Macron voters among them. They come predominantly from rural areas, left-behind people who struggle financially in smaller towns and villages.