It seems like only yesterday that French President Emmanuel Macron was saying that he wouldn’t bow to pressure from the protests and riots in the streets of Paris and back off of his plan to wean France off of fossil fuels through higher gas taxes. Oh, that’s right. It actually was yesterday. That position didn’t age very well. By last night, the French Prime Minister was out with an announcement saying that there would be a “delay” in implementing the new taxes while the government considers their options. (Associated Press)
French media say Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will announce a suspension of fuel tax hikes in an effort to appease a protest movement that has radicalized.
Both Le Monde newspaper and France Info radio say the planned increase, which has provoked riots, will be suspended for several months. Philippe is also expected to announce other measures aimed at easing tensions.
The prime minister is expected to announce the move later Tuesday.
So they’re delaying the taxes for “several months” now. That’s a rather broad timeline and it will give opponents of the new taxes plenty of time to rally their forces and try to force the government to scrap the plan entirely. It’s also interesting that Macron has his Prime Minister making the announcement rather than coming out and saying it himself. Perhaps he believes that will make it look less like he folded under pressure.
It was immediately obvious that a delay of a few months was not going to quiet the peasants. One organizer of the protests, Benjamin Cauchy, is quoted as saying that this announcement was “a crumb” from the government and they wouldn’t settle for it. Macron’s political rivals were quick to jump on the bandwagon as well. Marine Le Pen tweeted that it was “obviously not up to the expectations of the French people struggling with precarity.”
Un moratoire sur les taxes est envisagé. Mais un moratoire n’est qu’un report. Ça n’est évidemment pas à la hauteur des attentes et de la précarité dans laquelle se débattent les Français. MLP
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) December 4, 2018
Marine le Pen may rightly be looked at as being a bit opportunistic here, but she’s one voice that the protesters definitely want on their side and it works to their mutual advantage. Remember that only one month ago, polling showed that le Pen’s party was ahead of Macron’s in the runup to the next round of EU parliamentary elections.
If le Pen’s party can position themselves “on the right side of history” here by opposing the tax hikes and rejection of affordable fossil fuel energy, that’s only going to further weaken Macron’s position. And at this point, he may have put himself into a trap with no obvious path to escape. The people rioting in the streets of Paris aren’t only upset about this specific gas tax. Prices have risen across the board thanks to the new programs initiated under Macron and wages have not kept up. People are posting pictures of empty refrigerators on social media, saying they can’t even feed their families.
If Marine le Pen can come off as the voice of reason against expensive government social engineering projects, Macron will be further weakened. And if he can’t get those angry mobs in the streets to go home, he might not even last until the next round of French elections.