Macron Launches 'National Debate' to Assuage Yellow Vest Anger




Macron Launches
Macron Launches 'National Debate' to Assuage Yellow Vest Anger  

(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron next week launches a three-month national debate that he hopes will dissipate the anger displayed in the recent violent protests, without derailing the reforms he insists France needs.

The French president promised the "Great National Debate" Nov. 27 as part of his response to the so-called "Yellow Vests" movement, which was to oppose higher gasoline taxes before it morphed into a general clamor about the cost of living and the state of democracy in France.

Opposition leaders and much of the press have mocked the debate, whose launch has been marred by missteps and confusion over its contours. But public interest in the debate is greater than the disdain expressed in the media would suggest, said Bernard Sananes, president of polling company Elabe.

"The politicians are wrong to say it serves no purpose because one of the main lessons from the Yellow Vests is that there's a demand of the French public to have their opinions heard," said Sananes. "That doesn't mean it will be a success -- that's outside of the competence of a poll -- and there's a risk the disappointment could be even greater if the interest is high."

An Elabe poll released Thursday said 41 percent of the French will take part in the debate, and 40 percent will not. The poll also put support for the Yellow Vests at 60 percent, down 10 points from a month ago, a decline confirmed in other polls.

French police are preparing for a ninth straight Saturday of protests. Paris police chief Michel Delpuech said on CNews television Friday that the number of protesters has declined each weekend, but the level of violence of the remaining demonstrators has increased. The government is mobilizing 80,000 officers nationwide and 5,000 in the capital.

Four Themes

Macron will launch the debates next week, first with an on-line "letter to the French," and then with a Jan. 15 visit to a small town west of Paris, where he'll meet local mayors who are expected to play a major role in running the debates.

The government will publish a "kit" on how to organize the debates, which in theory can be done by anyone. Local town halls have already put out "grievance notebooks" where citizens can write any complaints or suggestions they may have, a French practice dating back to before the 1789 Revolution.

The government has listed four themes for the debate: ecological transition, public finances, democracy, and the state's organization, with ministers sending conflicting signals about whether other issues can be discussed. The debate will be the foundation for new measures and draft laws introduced as early as April, with the possibility of a referendum to approve the most far-reaching demands.

Unpopular Overhauls

Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally party is expected to get the most votes in May's European elections, has panned the debates, above all because Macron said he'll continue with planned money-saving changes to France's retirement and unemployment insurance systems.

"They say we will have a debate but we'll continue on our path," she said in an interview at her headquarters near Paris. "They say the debate is open and then they say here are only four things you're allowed to debate." Far-left and center-right parties have made the same criticism.

While media reports have focused on demands from Yellow Vests leaders to make more policy through referendums, the French are much more interested in issues dealing with purchasing power and taxes, Sananes said.

The process comes at a crucial moment in Macron's five-year term, which he began with a flurry of unpopular overhauls of labor laws and taxes. The Yellow Vest protests have tested his resolve to keep up the pace of reform and already forced him into U-turns on tax policies that will prove costly for public finances.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Geraldine Amiel, Vidya Root

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Maduro Vows `Deep
Maduro Vows `Deep' Change in Venezuela Government Amid Pressure

"I will in the coming hours announce new government methods and a profound change in the entire government of Venezuela," Maduro said in a speech at a political rally broadcast on state television. Maduro himself faces pressure to step down amid one of the worst economic crises in the country's history

Kamala Harris Calls for U.S. Spending Hike to Boost Teacher Pay
Kamala Harris Calls for U.S. Spending Hike to Boost Teacher Pay

The California senator will tell the Texas Southern University College Democrats in Houston that she'd seek to fully close the pay gap for public school teachers in her first term as president, according to a campaign aide who wasn't authorized to discuss the plan publicly. Harris's campaign cited a study by the progressive-leaning Economic Policy Institute that found that elementary, middle, and secondary public school teachers earn 11.1 percent less than similar college graduates, even after accounting for benefits, according to 2017 data. The candidate's call comes amid a flurry of policy ideas from a large Democratic presidential field aimed at mitigating rising inequality and...

'Yellow Vests' march in Paris as troops join police to prevent trouble

French "yellow vest" demonstrators began their 19th consecutive weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron's government on Saturday as military units were deployed to help police clamp down on any trouble. Protesters were banned from gathering on the Champs Elysees in Paris after shops and businesses on the avenue were looted and wrecked last weekend, leading the government to call in "Operation Sentinelle" army units for this weekend. Demonstrators began marching in the capital on Saturday along a new route taking them from Denfert Rochereau in southern Paris with the aim of finishing by Barbes, near the Sacre Coeur church in northern Paris.

Finally a Stock Rout You Can
Finally a Stock Rout You Can't Totally Blame on Jerome Powell

Could it be that the economy is becoming a bigger concern for investors than Jerome Powell? Friday's decline was led by cyclical industries, among them banks -- casualties of a flattening yield curve that many would attribute to the Federal Reserve chairman. "The real underlying catalyst is the question investors are struggling with: how much of a slowdown are we looking at?" said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group.

U.S. Treasury Yield Curve Inverts for First Time Since 2007
U.S. Treasury Yield Curve Inverts for First Time Since 2007

Inversion is widely considered a reliable harbinger of recession in the U.S. The 10-year slipped to as low as 2.439 percent. U.S. central bank policy makers on Wednesday lowered both their growth projections and their interest rate outlook, with the majority of officials now envisaging no hikes this

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.