16 Mar, 2019
France has ended two months of citizen debates in which Yellow Vest supporters were invited to air their grievances. Parisians who spoke with RT said the meetings were a stunt used by Emmanuel Macron and won’t lead to real change.
The French president launched his “great debate” in mid-January in response to the popular Yellow Vest protest movement. Up to 500,000 people participated in 10,000 meetings nationwide, with discussion topics ranging from taxes to the environment. The national dialogue has been credited with giving Macron a much-needed boost in the polls – but few seem optimistic that the debates will lead to concrete changes.
“It would surprise me if he takes any measures, but I don’t expect anything,” one Yellow Vest supporter told RT.
“Macron has a habit of just talking, but with no results in the end,” another activist said. “In my opinion, nothing will come of it.” Several Parisians who spoke with RT mused that the debates were also designed to boost support for his centrist party ahead of European elections.
Still, others argued that at least Macron was listening.
“At the beginning of his term, he was up on his high horse. And now at least he’s trying to communicate with people,” one woman observed.
France-based political analyst Nikola Mirkovic argued, however, that people were “sick and tired” of talk – and are eager for action.
“This is typical for Macron. There’s a lot of hot air, there’s a lot of talking, he’s been on every TV show this past month, saying he’s going to try to solve problems, but the only thing he’s doing is talking, talking, talking,” he said.
The Yellow Vests marched for the 18th straight week in Paris on Saturday, with clashes between protesters and police breaking out near the Champs-Elysees. Shops in the area were also reportedly targeted by looters. More than 30 people have been arrested.
The protest movement began in November 2018 after French President Emmanuel Macron announced controversial tax hikes. Over 2,000 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began, and dozens of protesters have been injured during violent clashes with police.