Recent reports suggest that French President Emmanuel Macron is keeping a low profile as demonstrators from the so-called Yellow Vest movement promise to continue protesting well into 2019.
Macron wished French troops stationed in Central Africa a Merry Christmas, The Times reported on Dec. 27. But the embattled French president has been conspicuously quiet, the report notes, especially given his decision to ding a widely unpopular carbon tax after protesters turned Paris upside down.
“Where is Emmanuel Macron?” Jean-Michel Aphatie, an analyst on Europe 1 radio, asked in a recent broadcast, according to The Times.
“He is hiding because he understands the rejection that he has stirred in this gilet jaune crisis. Emmanuel Macron and his communications team have invented … his disappearance as a way of calming things down.”
French outlet Le Monde echoed The Times, reporting on Dec. 22 that the protests have rendered Macron virtually paralyzed.
He rarely leaves the Élysée Palace for fear of energizing the Yellow Vest activists, Le Monde said.
Many of the anti-Macron protesters say the demonstrations will continue until after New Year’s Day. In fact, a group of around 50 Frenchmen gathered at the medieval fort of Bregancon off the French Mediterranean coast on Dec. 28. The fortress is the official retreat location for French presidents.
The number of protesters has fallen since the demonstrations began in November; nearly 300,000 people turned out Nov. 17, and less than half of that on Dec. 1, according to French authorities.
Officials have relied on armored vehicles to patrol Paris, which hasn’t happened since WWII.
Macron issued a freeze on any new oil and gas leases in 2017 and intends to ban all oil and gas drilling by 2040.
The 41-year-old former banker’s plan was designed to combat climate change, which many environmentalists believe poses an existential threat.
But much of the controversy stems from Macron’s move to increase gas taxes in January. French citizens are currently paying $1.73 per liter in American dollars, which is roughly $6.57 per gallon.
The bulk of the price comes from oil prices increases, but the gas tax increase is equivalent to up to 25 cents a gallon.
Macron’s decision to pull back the increases meanwhile has animated environmentalists. Greenpeace and three other organization initiated a lawsuit Dec. 18 claiming France is not doing enough to tackle climate change.
They are giving the government two months to formulate a response, after which they will move forward with their lawsuit.
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