France Fuel Riots: a Long-term Gain for Short-term Pain?
The recent riots and violence that has erupted in France’s major cities, including Paris, have shocked many across the world, with scenes of battles between protesters, rioters and the police.
The ‘gilets jaunes’ or yellow vest protestors started the protests due to fuel tax rising. However, the demonstrations quickly turned into riots with many frustrated about the tax rising, as well as Macron's leadership. The anger surrounding the protests is clear for all to see and Macron has called those rioting thugs, branding their violent protests as unacceptable.
When President Macron got elected in 2017, he promised economic reform and a robust climate agenda, which would see France reduce emissions and invest more in clean and renewable energy. Macron is very big on the climate change agenda and is often seen as being the world leader for countering climate change; the Paris Agreement has 195 countries involved, along with other measures on Macron’s agenda to not only reduce carbon emissions but also meet budget targets.
The fuel tax rises hit many in the pocket and furthers the perception of Macron as a president for the rich and not the poor or working class. Although Macron wants to reduce emissions and France’s dependability on cars and vehicles, many still need them to work and get on with their day to day lives. Indeed, an analysis of the upcoming budget carried out by France's Public Policy Institute found that the income for the poorest 25% of households would largely drop or stay the same the new policies.
While outrage and riots continue, the tax rises have been put on hold as Macron fears further demonstrations. Many are using this as an opportunity to voice their frustration at other things in France such as unemployment, living standards and general opposition to President Macron himself.
The riots serve as a reminder that the people have power, whether, through peaceful demonstration or rioting on the streets of the country’s capital, they have a strong sway on public policy.
The power of the public can be seen across the world, as people become more outspoken about what their government is imposing on them and whether they perceive it to be right or wrong.