Macron’s concessions draw mixed reactions in France

French opposition groups and some protesters have rejected the concessions recently made by President Emmanuel Macron in an attempt to end violent protests across the country, while some others have voiced satisfaction with his response.

President Macron promised a minimum wage rise and tax concessions in a televised speech on Monday, saying the protesters’ anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate.”

Protests first erupted last month in rural France among citizens who said they could not afford higher fuel taxes. The demonstrations then transformed into a broader rebuke of Macron’s policies, and they took on a name of their own: the “yellow vest” movement, a reference to the vests worn by people active in the transportation industry, who have been at the forefront of the protests.

But the demonstrations became increasingly violent. People torched cars, vandalized and looted stores, and damaged the Arc de Triomphe war memorial in the capital, Paris.

French authorities said 1,723 protesters had been arrested and that 200 people, including 17 police forces, had been injured in confrontations during the protests.

‘He is trying to do a pirouette’

Macron’s remarks drew immediate reactions from the protesters and opposition groups, with some of them calling the remarks “nonsense,” “a charade,” “a bluff” and “a drop in the ocean.”

Some protesters, who had gathered in groups around loudspeakers in cities all over the country to listen to Macron’s speech, reacted with anti-government slogans and laughter.

High school students attend a demonstration to protest against the French government’s reform plan, in Marseille, December 11, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

“He is trying to do a pirouette to land back on his feet but we can see that he isn’t sincere, that it’s all smoke and mirrors,” a protester was quoted by AFP as saying.

“It’s just window dressing, for the media, some trivial measures. It almost seems like a provocation,” said another yellow vest protester. “All this is cinema; it doesn’t tackle the problems of substance.”

‘Really not bad’

Others, however, reacted positively to Macron’s offers.

“The increase of 100 euros… it’s really not bad,” said Erwan, a yellow vest spokesman in Rennes. “He even talked about the big companies that don’t pay their taxes in France. We hope that he will move on that too.”

“There are some good ideas. It’s a mea culpa which arrives too late but we will not spit on it,” said Claude Rambour, another “yellow vest” protester.

Opposition politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon responded to Macron by calling for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth was achieved.

Mélenchon, who is the leader of the far-left La France Jean-Luc, Insoumise,  argued that a promise of a 100-euro minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay, and end-of-year bonuses would not affect any “considerable part” of the French population.

A former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, Benoît Hamon said that people “expect a real redistribution of wealth.”

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also denounced the president’s financial concessions to struggling workers, saying the government’s general “course has not changed.”

Marine Le Pen, the president of the National Rally, welcomed some of the concessions but accused Macron’s “model” of governance as being based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” and failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the so-called yellow vest movement.

“Yellow vest” protesters gather around a loudspeaker on a road near Le Boulou, southern France, to listen to the president’s speech on December 10, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

People believe protesters want to stop rallying: Poll

According to an opinion poll by a French research company that was released on Tuesday, 54 percent of French people believed “yellow vest” protesters achieved their goals and want rallies to stop.

Half of the respondents, however, considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures as unconvincing, the results of the poll by OpinionWay showed.

Macron took office last year with a pledge to revitalize the economy; but many voters ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain that his pro-business policies have mostly benefited companies and the rich.

‘Protests could bring Macron to feet’

Meanwhile, a commentator told Press TV on Tuesday that what is happening in France was due to “economic discontent that is all across Europe and other countries.”

Edward Corrigan described the weeks of unrest in France as “a very loud, vocal expression of discontent which could bring Macron to [his] feet.”

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