France: ‘yellow vest’ protests
Observers warn against underestimating the consequences of social protests in France for the upcoming European elections.
GD – 11/2018
of thousands of French people have been demonstrating more or less peacefully
against what they believe to be the negative impact of Emmanuel Macron’s
policies and that of his Prime Minister on a significant proportion of the
French population. According to several newspaper reports, the spectrum of
protesters is seemingly as broad as the group of persons themselves. Almost the
entire political spectrum is involved in one issue or another. The trademark of
the protesters in the streets are the high-visibility yellow vests they wear, and
which all drivers must keep in their car.
important trigger, although probably not the cause according to observers, was
the increase in fuel tax. Petrol has now reached a heady high of two euros per litre
in France, which affects both commuters and business people who depend on affordable
new form of protest organised mainly via the Internet is something new in
France. It is not traditional organisations, such as trade unions, churches or
interest groups, but ‘enraged citizens’ who are accusing the President and his
government of asking too much of them; this is the same president who was voted
in with much fanfare just over a year ago. Their complaints range from high taxes
and neglected rural areas through to clear shortages in the once generous
social healthcare system with growing waiting lists, something which France
once considered to be ‘English disease’.
geographer and social researcher, Christophe Guilly, has identified a new
breaking point in political affinities. Citizen’s anger, and even rage, have built
up due to a variety of issues, often social ones, and are at odds with the political
elite. In his book ‘No Society - The End of the Western Middle Class’, he describes
France’s linear austerity policy as affecting hospital care, accessibility to doctors
and employment opportunities alike.
report how various parties are trying to take advantage of the protests. ‘Car hostility’ attached to the proposed withdrawal of
diesel vehicles, especially in the country of diesel cars and hefty tax
increases, goes hand in hand with social exclusion, a lack of internet access
and infrastructure shortages in healthcare.