Bracing the toughest phase of his tenure, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday his decision to raise the minimum wage by 100 euros, which is $ 114 per month, while mitigating overtime and pension taxes.The announcement came in the midst of a tumultuous phase in French politics, compounded by the violent “Yellow Vest” protests. Allegedly, the movement has also been infiltrated by street gangs and far-right groups against the government, by Macron’s party En Marche.
The Yellow Vest movement derives its name from the high-visibility vest that French drivers are required to keep in their vehicles and now worn by many in a figurative attempt to be visible.The movement began against the backdrop of a carbon tax imposed by Macron on petroleum products that quickly turned into a revolt against En Marche. The President is widely perceived as being out of touch with the aspirations of the French population.
In the face of the greatest challenge to his presidency, while recognizing the magnitude of the “Yellow Vest” movement, Macron acknowledged that people have a right to be angry. The young President said that he wanted to declare a “state of economic and social emergency” to facilitate the fulfillment of their needs.
Emmanuel Macron ignored the movement for several weeks, as protesters staged violent demonstrations across France, and brought Paris to a standstill, by torching cars, clashing with riot police and defacing public monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Under mounting pressure, Emmanuel Macron withdrew the controversial carbon tax last week, but the protests continued over the weekend.
The roots of the crisis lie in the language used by Macron in which he expressed his strong disdain for the working class of France. This drove masses on to the streets that snowballed into a movement aimed at highlighting the daily struggles of the middle class,crushed by rising costs of living and high fuel prices.
In June, Macron, referred to welfare spending as “crazy money”. In September, he told an unemployed gardener that it should be easy to find another job in a hotel, cafe or a restaurant.
What angered the populace was that the President slashed France’s high wealth tax and introduced a flat tax on capital gains instead, in a bid to encourage investment. “This tax has been eliminated for those who invest in our economy and therefore help to create jobs,” he was quoted as saying.
Although some demonstrators have vowed to protest for a fifth week, analysts said that the tone the president struck on Monday, could ease tensions.
As France struggled to contain the massive protests that have been raging through the country for weeks, President Emmanuel Macron announced a state of “economic-emergency” on December 11 to ease public suffering and mitigate the intensity of the movement.
The “Yellow Vest” movement clearly undermines the rule of law in Paris and expresses a strong resentment against the regime’s recent policies that have underscored the need for welfare schemes for the working class and yet provided significant concessions to the wealthy. However, President Macron’s imposition of an emergency and his increasingly apologetic tone may relax tensions significantly as he attempts to win over the support of the largely neglected sections. The final political outcome of the popular movement remains yet to be seen.