French President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to be the new face of Europe and a leader of the new world order, or so we were told upon his election. But back home, he’s increasingly becoming a very disliked figure. That fact became increasingly clear this week after Macron’s new gas tax was announced. The tax hike was ostensibly put in place to pay for clean energy programs and “wean the public off fossil fuels.” The result? Massive protests across the country and at least one person killed when they attempted to block traffic on the highways. (Bloomberg)
One protester was knocked down by a car and died and a series of road accidents were scattered across France Saturday as tensions mounted during the morning hours of grassroots protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise gasoline prices.
The protester was taking part in a road blockade in Savoie, south-eastern France, and the driver has been taken in custody, according to the interior ministry. Another person was severely hurt in Arras, northern France, and more than a dozen people were injured in other accidents, Agence France-Presse reported. More than 2,000 rallies are taking place across the country, gathering about 124,000 protesters, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner’s second assessment, at midday.
Macron is facing possibly the biggest demonstrations of his 18 months in office. Opposition parties have egged on a grassroots movement threatening to block traffic across France to express anger over higher gasoline prices.
Macron has been driving through a number of liberal reforms since taking office, all of which have drawn significant protests. His efforts to “reform” the country’s rail system and regulate the labor market resulted in strikes by government workers and rallies in the public square. But nothing seems to have gotten the French up in arms as much as this gas tax.
Macron’s popularity at home has been dropping significantly since he was first elected. This was recently brought into focus when polling indicated that Macron’s party was now less popular than Marine Le Pen’s. They don’t have parliamentary elections coming up for a couple of years yet, but it’s still enough to make the ruling class nervous.
But can the French people actually do anything about the gas tax? They’ve got a petition up at Change.org demanding lower gasoline taxes and it’s already gathered more than 860,000 signatures. But the government is sticking to their guns (figuratively speaking, since almost nobody is allowed to have guns there) and insisting that the new tax has to stay in place. They’re going to implement a green energy model for the sake of their citizens whether they like it or not, by golly.
Keep in mind that the French don’t have the same level of assured freedoms that Americans enjoy and the government is more powerful when it comes to the behavior of private citizens. If they tire of the protests they can just begin arresting people wholesale if they wish. Of course, that won’t do much to keep Macron in office over the long run.