Yellow vest protests escalate once more

125,000 yellow vests took to the streets in protest across France on the weekend. The demonstrators are now not only protesting against higher fuel taxes but also demanding changes in social policy. In view of renewed violence in Paris and other cities commentators ask whether the movement has squandered its opportunity to have a real say in political decision-making.

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Libération (FR) /

Violence could offer Macron an opportunity

Libération wonders where the confrontation between the yellow vests and the French government will lead:

“Does anyone believe the yellow vests can remain popular by scaring the people, transforming the capital into a ghost town every weekend and obliging the government to deploy an unparalleled police presence reminiscent of wartimes? The government is inflexible, slow and uncomprehending, and bears much of the responsibility for the spiralling violence. The president is getting his own back for his snide remarks addressed to the lower-middle classes who are being made to make the most sacrifices in these times of economic crisis. He will pay the political price. But he can also use this occasion to cast himself as the force that restores order and to discredit the protesters' demands.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A risk to demcracy

Der Standard also fears the protest movement could fail to realise its potential for change:

“Are the yellow vests part of the populist wave sweeping across the West from Hungary to the US, and from Italy to the UK? Not only that: they could also have a positive impact on France if they can bring about what Macron hasn't been able to achieve - namely to break up the ossified elite mindset and centralist power structures. The protesters are also calling for more democratic say in a country ruled by a technocratic elite. That said, the Saturday orgies of violence in Paris are themselves endangering democracy. The yellow insurrection is shaking France to its very foundations.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Riots must not pay off

For Dnevnik the concessions the protesters fought for have a bitter aftertaste:

“Overnight they have left the power of Macron, the president of the rich, fully weakened and forced him to take measures in favour of the lower and middle classes. But the yellow vests, who for the most part protested peacefully, were greatly helped by thugs of the far right and left, who by wreaking havoc in the streets of Paris close to the Elysée-Palace struck fear into the hearts of Macron and his advisers. It was only because of this that Macron gave in after 1 December. But in doing so he has sent a signal that violence pays off, and that is dangerous for democracy.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Who will speak for the yellow vests?

Now the question of who will represent the movement at the political level arises, politician Toomas Alatalu writes in Eesti Päevaleht:

“One can say that in the space of four weekends the French people have restored their standing as the advocate of the working class. ... It will be interesting to see with whom the government will negotiate. Can its negotiating partners truly represent those who are expressing their dissatisfaction with the current policies and reforms?”

The Observer (GB) /

President needs to get off his high horse

The president must show that he understands the people's concerns and takes them seriously, The Observer advises:

“Macron has failed to deliver the mould-breaking 'revolution' he promised. One of his first moves was to abolish France's ineffective wealth tax, making him an easy target for the 'president of the rich' tag. He has squandered the goodwill that propelled him to power last year. His reputation for being out of touch and arrogant is deserved. … Macron must hold his nerve and absorb the lessons. France needs more listening and less leading. And the president needs to come down a peg or three.”