Macron launches national debate amid ‘yellow vest’ protests


IAN LANGSDON | AFP | Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech during a traditional Epiphany cake ceremony at the Elysee palace in Paris, on January 11, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron launched a three-month nationwide debate on Monday, after tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police across the country for the ninth consecutive weekend.

The initiative is intended to address a long list of grievances among the so-called “yellow vests” — a grassroots uprising named after the high-visibility jackets protesters wear.

The anti-government rallies were initially born out of anger over a fuel tax hike but have since morphed into a broader movement of growing discontent against the French president.

In an open letter published by French media outlets on Monday, Macron sought to recognize protesters’ demands for change to some of his flagship policies, but appeared to stop short on rolling back his pro-business reforms.

“For me, there is no banned issue. We won’t agree on everything, which is normal in a democracy. But at least we’ll show we’re a people which is not afraid of talking, exchanging, debating,” Macron said in a 2,330-word open letter.

Macron did not say whether he would be prepared to scrap his administration’s contentious wealth tax policy, which has led to some of his critics describing him as “president of the rich.”

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