Dec 3, 2018

Paris' worst riots in decades could make or break Macron presidency

Surveying the damage on Kleber Avenue in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has visited the graffiti-stained Arc de Triomphe, called for urgent talks and postponed a trip to Serbia after what are being called the worst riots to hit Paris since 1968. Paris' mayor says up to $4.5 million in damage was done on Saturday alone. An elderly woman in Marseille was killed after being hit by a tear gas canister at her window.

Why it matters: Sophie Pedder, the Economist's Paris bureau chief, explains that while "Macron has faced down waves of strikes and street protests since his election 18 months ago ... this one is very different."

  • "The gilet jaunes (yellow vests) movement began as a protest by those who drive long distances to work against higher green taxes on diesel. But it has since captured a far broader anger against Macron."
  • "Protestors represent France’s squeezed middle: incomes are too high for full welfare benefits, but too low to make ends meet. They are angry at Macron’s early tax cuts for the better-off, and a perception that he is indifferent to ordinary people’s concerns."
  • "Most gilets jaunes, manning blockades on roundabouts across provincial France, are peaceful. Over the past three weekends, the numbers have dropped: from 280,000 countrywide to 136,000 on Saturday. But as the figures have fallen, the violence has intensified."

What to watch: "This is the first real political crisis of Macron’s presidency. The power vested by the constitution in the French presidency makes him both the focus of inflated hopes, and of all anger. During his election campaign Macron was himself the leader of a (peaceful) political insurrection. ... Now the rebellion is against him. ... How he handles it will probably determine his presidency."

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