'Yellow Vests' Seek More Protests Despite Paris Suspending Fuel Tax Hike


The concessions made by French president Emmanuel Macron's government in a bid to stop the huge and violent anti-government demonstrations seemed on Wednesday to have failed to convince protesters.

An official with the Elysee palace told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the president made a decision to get rid of the tax.

Mr Griveaux also said the government would permanently end the fuel tax hikes planned for January if no agreement were reached at the end of the consultation period called by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Protesters are not calling for the new fuel-tax hikes to be delayed, but repealed.

Macron has been a supporter of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The "yellow vest" protests began November 17 over the government plan to raise taxes on diesel and gasoline, but by the time Macron bowed to three weeks of violence and abandoned the new fuel tax, protesters were demanding much more.

While welcome ecologically, any increase to fuel prices stood to severely impact those already struggling financially because of low wages, high taxes and high unemployment. But instead of appeasing the protesters, it spurred other groups to join in, hoping for concessions of their own.

Farmers will also consider later Wednesday whether to mount a day of demonstrations and possibly road blockades next week, the head of the FNSEA agricultural union said. On Saturday demonstrations turned violent as monuments in Paris were vandalised and police cars set on fire.

So after nightfall Wednesday, as parliament debated the 2019 budget, Macron's government suddenly gave in. "We're in politics so that things work out", he said. He said the wealth tax could be reassessed in the autumn of 2019.

"If your only response, Mr Prime Minister, is the suspension of Macron's fuel taxes, then you still haven't realised the gravity of the situation", Abad said.

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But experts say the government may have reacted too late to the street protests, a regular feature of French political life which have repeatedly forced Macron's predecessors into U-turns. Macron's move was "on the right path but, in my opinion, it will not fundamentally change the movement", she said.

Three weeks of protests have left four people dead and were a massive challenge to Macron.

Protesters say Mr Macron is out of touch, particularly with non-city dwellers who rely on their cars.

He has seen a slump in popularity ratings since he was elected n 2017. The former investment banker, who has pushed pro-business economic reforms to make France more globally competitive, is accused of being the "president of the rich" and of being estranged from the working classes.

Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilised, trucking unions called for a rolling strike, and France's largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

Many are also anxious after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the "yellow vest" movement.

Many "yellow vest" protesters, named after the high-visibility jackets they wear, have said that Philippe's rollback on fuel taxes is not enough and have called for new protests in the capital on Saturday.

Meanwhile, police used water cannons, stun grenades, and hundreds of canisters of tear gas against the demonstrators, as well as arresting about 400 people.