Revolt over high fuel prices threatens to paralyse France

Rise of the ‘gilets jaunes’ coincides with Macron’s record low 26% approval rating

In just a few weeks, the yellow hi-vis vest has become such a potent political symbol that one risks being mistaken for a supporter of the rebellious gilets jaunes when cycling in Paris.

The gilets jaunes are a grass-roots revolt against high fuel prices, and they threaten to paralyse France on Saturday.

The cause of the price hikes are “eco taxes” meant to dissuade the French from using cars. “We choose to tax pollution and harmful products rather than workers,” budget minister Gérald Darmanin explains. Yet the fuel taxes penalise the poor disproportionately.

In the hope of deflating the protests, prime minister Édouard Philippe on Wednesday announced €500 million of compensatory measures, including a €5,000 bonus for low-income earners who trade in polluting cars for a hybrid model.

The gilets jaunes have organised at least 630 protests nationwide via the blocage17novembre.com website, designed by an 18-year-old student. Some call for go-slows on highways. Others want to block roads, which is punishable by two years in prison and a €4,500 fine. Interior minister Christophe Castaner says no “total blockage” will be tolerated.

But several police unions have expressed sympathy, and promised not to punish petty or “middle-size” offences “out of solidarity with the citizens”.

Unlikely heroine

The movement has found an unlikely symbol in Jacline Mouraud, a 51-year-old accordion player, hypnotist and spiritual medium from Brittany who on October 18th posted a video message hectoring President Emmanuel Macron for “persecuting drivers”.

 

This article appeared on the Irish Times website at https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/revolt-over-high-fuel-prices-threatens-to-paralyse-france-1.3699287